Author Archives: Kristen S. Walker
This year is the second Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off or SPFBO! If you enjoy fantasy and you’re looking for your next great read, you should check out this competition, currently underway.
In the next six months, ten book review bloggers will read three hundred fantasy novels. Each blog will choose one favorite book from their stack of thirty, leading to ten finalists. Then all of the blogs will read and rate the finalists to choose a winner. Along the way, they’ll be shining a spotlight on some of the best self-published fantasy novels today. With so many great books to choose from, it’s a fun way to find new books.
There’s no big money prize at the end. The competition’s purpose is to show the high quality of self-published fantasy books being produced today. With so many new books constantly being published on Amazon and other stores, there’s too much to choose from, and it can be hard to weed through to find the books that are well-written and professionally edited. Book reviews help you see what other readers liked, but a lot of reviewers choose not to read anything that was self-published. Many of the judges in SPFBO didn’t read self-published books before the competition. Last year’s contest changed their minds–now they agree that some self-published novels can be just as good as the ones from big traditional publishing companies.
It’s still early in the year-long competition, so only a few reviews have been posted so far, but there’s already a lot of great discussion about the contest. Mark Lawrence, who organizes the contest, keeps a list of all related posts on his blog, or you can find them using the hashtag #SPFBO on Twitter.
There’s also a mini contest of book covers from the 300 entries. See a selection of the best covers and vote for your favorites at the SPFBO Cover Contest!
On a personal note, I entered one of my own novels, A Flight of Marewings, into the contest. I’m still waiting to find out what my reviewer thinks about it, but I’m excited to take part and see what happens. I’ve already seen a lot of books that I want to read in the contest, too, so I’ll be doing reviews of some of the entries on my personal blog. Wish me luck!
The great thing about independent publishing is that there’s an opportunity for anyone to publish a book. But with so many new books getting published all the time, it’s hard for indie authors to get our books to stand out. The first step is to make sure that our books are as good as we can possibly make them, spending months or even years polishing every sentence. But once that wonderful book is out in the world, how do we get anyone to notice it?
The best way is old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Someone reads our book and they enjoy it, so they tell a friend, who gets interested and decides to read the book, too. With the Internet, this can happen even faster, because you can recommend a book and have a lot of people all around the world see that recommendation. Book distributors like Amazon and social sites like Goodreads have made this process even easier by offering simple tools for anyone to rate and review books. Now, it’s not just critics who have a platform for voicing their opinions about the latest novels. You can read reviews written by readers just like you to help find books that you could enjoy. But it’s been estimated that only 1-5% of all readers write any reviews.
When you write a review, you help the author by drawing attention to their book. You also help other readers find the book and figure out if it’s for them. If you say, for example, “I loved how the cat helped solved the mystery!”, then cat-lovers will know to pick the the book up–and people who don’t like cats may realize that it’s not for them. Reviews are subjective, but they still help describe the book and inform potential readers.
There are guides out there about how to write a good review, but you don’t need to be an expert on anything to write a good review. Just describe what you liked or didn’t like in the story that you read. Often the most helpful reviews are a mix of both positive and negative comments. Remember to add details. Don’t just say “I loved it!” or “I hated it!”, describe why you had that reaction.
Sometimes, you may not love the book you just read. It’s okay to say so. (It’s not okay to attack the author personally, but you’re allowed to be honest about the book itself.) Some people don’t feel comfortable posting negative reviews, and that’s okay, too. But as authors, it’s our job to accept some criticism, and if we listen to all our feedback (good or bad), that can help us to grow in our storytelling abilities. And don’t be scared off by horror stories of authors who lashed out at a negative review–it has happened, but it’s rare (and you should report any author who harasses you).
In the end, our books succeed because of the readers who love them. Writing a review is a nice way to thank the author for the hard work they did so you would enjoy the story. Reviews have been compared to giving a hug to an author, and that’s how I feel about them, too. I love to write for myself, but I publish my stories because I know people are entertained by them. And every review I get reminds me that somewhere out there, I made someone smile.