Let’s talk about… Star Ratings

Book reviews. What do they really mean? Unlike most products out there, books aren’t reviewed for whether or not they function properly, books are reviewed through the opinion of a reader which is entirely different…

The word ‘subjective’ gets thrown around a lot in the literary world, Agents will cling to it when rejecting a query and many other reviewers will use it as an excuse to give good or even bad reviews of stories.

Above the sacred book review is an often overlooked factor of governance, the Star Rating which is the subject for discussion because on at least 3 platforms I know of in the book reviewing world, it differs..

Goodreads

Is Goodreads Free?

Goodreads (the Facebook of the Book world) takes their stance on the star rating system as follows…

More on caveats | lucinda sans

Now I’m pretty satisfied with most of their definitions and let’s face it, the only thing available to review on Goodreads is books so it’s pretty specifically set for them, that is until it comes down to the 2 star and below. To me 2 stars is less than OK for a book…

The truth is, I’ve never rated a book below 3 stars on any platform mainly due to the fact I just haven’t found a read like that yet; I am quite picky and know whether or not I am going to enjoy a book, so I see the star rating as a score out of 5 and anything below three isn’t a pass… (this is just my opinion folks)

Amazon

More Amazon delivery restrictions are coming | TechRadar

Amazon, arguably the most important place for authors to get reviews as it is where their work is sold exclusively from, like me. There appears to be a little difference between their rating and Goodreads, now Amazon have done the Amazon thing and I can’t find anywhere reputable throughout the Google that tells us straight up what each star in their rating system means. This could be because they don’t know, they don’t want us to know or maybe it’s a combo of both. So let us look to the 2 star review as an example:

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This ‘review’ is taken from my super hero comedy novella ‘The Teleporter’ and as you can see it’s not only a negative review but a DNF review also which is hardly in line with the Goodreads 2 star review of ‘It was OK’.

When comparing probably the two most important book reviewing platforms they contradict one another and that is without another major factor; personal preference which is what Mr Beam me up decided to do with his/her review because even if you put out guidelines, whether or not they will be followed is another thing and this reviewer didn’t then hop on over to Goodreads.

Reedsy Discovery

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You can expect my very first Reedsy Discovery review tomorrow and it’s a good one trust me! Now their rating system is strict compared to others. They feel that you don’t need to give every book a 5 star rating and of course save that for the truly exceptional reads.

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As you can see from their emoji heavy rating system that it agrees with me in principle. Anything below 3 is a ‘not for me’ but this also makes things tricky going upwards because of their stance of 5 star reviews, one has to find a truly exceptional book to use that rating.

Personal Preference

I don’ think there is one true way to rate a book using the above platforms and their own star rating systems. They differ too much, even without us realising. A four star review from Goodreads could mean something entirely different on Amazon because of the personal preference of a reader or because the guidelines aren’t particularly clear.

Personally I might have been way to generous in the past but arguably the books I’ve read had an effect on me and motivated me to rate them the way I did. The journey these authors have taken me on has led to what I thought of them and I pride myself on the support I give. The 5 star rating I give might not be for a truly exceptional once in a lifetime story but for the effort they put in to write something, to do research or even help me escape this world for just a while.

Authors view reviews as gold dust or even currency these days and it’s big business trust me. If it wasn’t for reviewing books, this very blog would be a ghost town.

What do you think of the star rating system for books? 

Swimming in the sea of self published books…

With the emergence of self publishing or indie publishing the world isn’t short of books right now. Writers everywhere are all looking for the same thing and so the marketing techniques are quickly becoming tired.

The ‘Free to download’ promotion has a shelf life and if everyone is doing it then there’s no value to such a deal. Readers might even see more value in priced books and so the marketing situation spins.

The Boy On The Sea Of Books

Reviews don’t actually carry much value. I have a liberal amount and even with few reviews my books still sell as much as those with more reviews. Its all about reach.

I’ve been public with most of my marketing efforts but even major companies omit recipes or ingredients. So yes there are few cards I hold to my chest, this ain’t charity. you know…  Many writers come to me and my resource page. They use the info and move forward, sometimes rinsing and repeating. That’s fine for a time but everyone with content must find their own ways of reaching their own market eventually. Find your own tribe.

Much of my advice adopts a ‘help all’ style but this will only take one so far; trust me I’m the first to use this stuff so I know.

Finding new ways to create reach is called innovation. And in the social media world which is rammed full of writers all looking for the same thing it does feel like we are swimming in the sea of self published stuff. My marketing strategy has always remained for as long as I am an indie author and that is to focus on selling one book at a time to one person at at time.

Eventually some of those ones return for another book and another – my next pillar of marketing – create more content which is then galvanised by me being active in the writing arena by reviewing books and giving back. Those three marketing strategies may not sell large amounts of books but they sell a satisfying amount and the circle of books is complete in my eyes.

I read a lot because I want to be able to write well. Professional athletes probably watch their own sport as much as they play it -the ones who want to get better do anyway….

This is an eye of the beholder situation and always has been…. Don’t be disheartened for single figure sales, they all count.

Do you have any unique book selling ideas other than just making your book free to download? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best books I’ve read this year… so far Part 2…

Because one measly blog post isn’t enough to cover the great books I’ve been immersed in during the first part of 2020 – year of the shit storm. And let’s face it, I love a sequel, I can’t help but leave the door open and in this sense it’s for the greater good of books so here we go, let’s dive in to some part 2 of best books….

The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley by Nina Romano

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Westerns have always captivated my imagination. From the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to the modern television epic ‘Westworld’ and even the final part of my all time favourite film trilogy Back to the Future Part 3. I’m a connoisseur of modern country music and have even dabbled in possibly the greatest video game story ever told which also happens to be a western; Red Dead Redemption 2.

With that in mind, it was only a matter of time until the right book came along and The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley is just that. Authentic history meets romance that spans over some years during a time in America where the modern world is still emerging. Nina Romano has constructed an epic tale of love that delves into Native American culture complete with the sights and smells. The love between the main protagonists is perceived as destiny and that’s how I saw it anyway. To quote my reviewIt’s both poetic and sometimes poignant while even being brutal in parts, of course the old world was back then and you cannot fault the factual elements that are intertwined with the fiction…’

‘The Quest For The Sun God’s Tomb : The Willie Abrams Saga’ by C.J Evans

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Continuing with the historic fiction theme we’re going a few years ahead to a post WW1 world where a pair of american veterans are living out their retirement in Cuba (booze was banned back home). While it seems to be the ideal life, the sun, the sand and the daiquiris, history soon catches up with Willie Abrams. It’s part treasure hunt come rescue mission with a little dusting of Indiana Jones – if he went to middle america on a mission to find an artefact and use it to bargain for an old flames release. And quoting my review; The Quest For The Sun God’s Tomb is an easy to read tale of action and adventure guaranteed to keep readers interested all the way to the end! This one will definitely whisk you away for a while!’

‘Scarred’ by Damien Linnane

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We’re going down the crime vigilante rabbit hole now with ‘Scarred’ by Australian author Damien Linnane who has put together a unique and sometimes violent tale that will question your judgement of justice. There’s a conflict in the story that runs throughout – that being whether or not the actions of the MC are right and wrong. To quote my review‘there are so many messages within the story such as revenge not always being the answer and the true morality of justice…’ 

American Blasphemer: A Novel by John Matthew Gillen

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This story captivated me like not many books do and I’m afraid that’s all I can say because ‘American Blashpemer’ is the first book I have read and reviewed for Reedsy Discovery and because it was an ARC, the review will be coming very soon, but trust me you don’t want to miss it!

Life Signs by Christina Engela

PHIS#2 Life Signs by Christina Engela - cover

The sci fi stories of Christina Engela appear quite frequently on my shelves, they are both fun and in good supply. Like the many of her books I have reviewed in the past ‘Life Signs’ deserves a shout out as well as the wider Panic! Horror in Space series. This one is a trio of stories that tie into the wider world of space, horror and even some comedy. To quote my review: ‘From poignant to quirky and fun, these stories pretty much cover everything that Engela is known for with a writing style and depth that will draw you in…’

‘Mr Mercedes’ by Stephen King

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Okay it may not be an indie book but sometimes we all need a break to switch things up. I bet Superman even has cheat days, not that I am comparing myself… plus I had this in paperback on my to read shelf for quite a while. Now I know, it’s Stephen King and if you tune into his twitter, we can probably describe his tweets as ‘interesting’ at best, he’s not quite at the J,K Rowling level yet but he’s on his way, the less said about that, the better….

Mr Mercedes is outside of the usual genre we all know and ‘love’ King for but he still manages to retain the depravity and the places he’s willing to go in order to tell a good crime story. That being retired detective who has let himself go is taunted by the criminal he never caught. It’s very readable, has a few gasp type moments and overall worth a look. You can check out my full review here

And so that wraps up another Best Books blog post. Of course there are still some other books which didn’t get a mention, so look out for them! Peace out, thanks for reading, stay safe… 

 

Joining Reedsy Discovery…

So it seems my book reviewing efforts have been noticed. Last month Reedsy Discovery reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in joining their platform. After some consideration I’ve taken the plunge in what I hope to be new sights and new heights for the Hall of Information.

Reviewing Independently published books for me carries an abundance of rewards from discovering great stories to connecting with fellow authors who also struggle to get their words seen by the world. Along the way I’ve connected with some wonderful people from all over the world who not only appreciate my reviewing efforts but in return have supported me and stuck around to check out my blogging. Some have even taken strides towards buying my books and so the circle of  life books is complete…

A New Concept in Book Discoverability: Reedsy Discovery Book ...

Reedsy Discovery is a reviewing platform that champions new and indie published books but just at a higher level than I am doing right now. The truth is I am still a small island and can only reach so many wordsmiths who are in need of support. The platform provides a greater reach and provides reviewers with a free copy in exchange for a review within a certain time frame. Looking at the site and how it works is a step up from my usual take my time endeavours and so I consider this a massive move in the world of book reviewing. The good thing is I am still able to support indies who have submitted to the site and so the blogging efforts on here shall continue! Reedsy have a certain submission standard and so you can expect me to be reviewing indie books of a the highest quality.

The reviews I do with Reedsy will first premiere on their platform via my profile and then arrive here and the usual places after. You can check out my profile here  and of course if you are on Reedsy let’s connect!

What does this mean for authors who have reached out to me and their stuff that I have on my tbr? 

I’m still committed to reviewing and reading indie books from all over and not just specifically Reedsy so this blog and it’s efforts won’t be going far. The hope is for it’s reach to increase!

For all those who have helped the Hall of Information get noticed like this, I salute you!

 

A Dish Best Served Cold: An ‘Archer’ Novel by Steve Lumsden – Review

Page turning British crime that keeps readers immersed…

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Steve Lumsden tells a unique crime story in a unique way. Presented Over six parts A dish Best Served Cold is a revenge and criminal underworld story that see’s implications from the past shape the present day and the characters in it.

At the beginning we don’t quite know what ‘Archer’ is doing or what his motives are other than disrupting a crime syndicate but he’s a man on a mission and gets things done. His mystique and intrigue carries the opening parts of the book while it intertwines with the opposing forces he is messing with. Just who ‘Archer’ is and what his connection is to the people he faces is what this story is all about. His journey eventually becomes apparent but you’ll be guessing for a while.

Scenes and pages fly by with a writing style that doesn’t keep readers in one place for long, its different in that sense and works. While the story unfolds it’s told through multiple characters that are all moving towards a satisfying resolve that contains a few twists – some expected and some not so much. There are some characters who may appear to be of the bad persuasion but are actually a force of good.

From drug dealings to sordid affairs there’s a subtle level of grit that makes for an easy to read British crime story…

4 Stars – Reviews left via Amazon UK and Goodreads

3000 Tweet Machine Followers Special!

Celebrate the small victories in life, or in this case quite probably a big one because my tweet machine following just surpassed 3000 and that’s an achievement!

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This special post is two things:

A thank you, a huge tip of the cap sized thank you. Seriously if it wasn’t for the Writing Community and Blogging Community this wouldn’t have happened, and everyone else who has joined me since 2013 – cheers…

And…

How the hell did I do it? 

(A self help seminar that will help you get more tweet machine followers…)

Pull up a chair my friend and let me tell you how I did it. Now some of ya’ll might have way bigger followings than 3k but even if you have more this is some solid and proof tested advice for tweet machine success.

Apart from stumbling my way through a series of trials and errors there is a formula to getting people to support you even if it is ‘just a follow’. These ‘just follows’ eventually total up to something much more and so here’s what you got to do…

  1. Get yourself a human looking profile picture. People like real people. It’s genuine and honesty is probably the key to all of this. Don’t hide that pretty face of yours…
  2. Bio – Be honest, be friendly, tell the world what you are about and what you stand for. Be inviting and convince folks you are likely to follow them back just out of politeness…
  3. Pinned Tweet – You must have one of these. Again it needs to show what your jam is and what you stand for. My current pinned tweet is asking the writing community for book recommendations and so it’s a celebration of what I stand for. It’s also okay to have your blog link, or your own book link – celebrate yourself!
  4. Engage productively. Every day I consistently comment on other folks posts with something friendly and productive or something I can contribute with. I also Like and Retweet that post – trust me this is huge for engagement and people will follow you for it!  
  5. It’s okay to unfollow. You want to keep who you are following and people who follow you in the same ballpark. Try and keep it even and folks that aren’t relevant, just unfollow them…

Everything else, is up to the tweet machine God’s to decide.

But just be genuine and friendly – that’s what social media should be used for.

Profile Picture, Bio, Pinned Tweet, Engage, Consistency and it’s okay to unfollow. Remember these steps and you’ll be on your way to Tweet Machine success! 

 

Peace out, thanks for following, rock and roll man!

The Final Ramble 2019

Life is too short not to care about the future of our environment. Even if the majority of us have adult problems in an adult world those problems will be minuscule compared to what’s coming if we don’t all do something. You can say what you like about Greta; she’s just a kid and what does she really know? That’s an unfair question to ask simply because it puts someone at a disadvantage due to age. I only know what I know because I have lived longer than her and even then it isn’t much. I’ve been through that early twenties phase of thinking I know everything and having an answer for everything. Now when somebody asks me something I think about it first before realising I don’t know. Trust me when I say this; I’ve spent the majority of my life figuring out I don’t know a lot, but the answers, I know where to find them. And what exactly are we going to do about this girl who is just trying to spread a message? Give her a break, put what you think about her and the way she delivers her message aside, but embrace the message that we need to do something about the future of this world.

Life is too short for grudges and hatred. That person you think you ‘hated’ for years upon years is a person also. They feel just like you, inside they might actually be willing to let go like you and I’ll tell you now, hating long term is bad for everyone’s soul. Of course there will be situations where forgiveness may never see the light of day and I understand that too but it’s important to move away from a grudge. Time has a way of moving a lot of water under that bridge we call life.

Life is too short to be unhealthy. This is a serious one for me because over the past few years I’ve had my fair share of ‘health stuff’ to deal with and I still am. This doesn’t just refer to physical health but mental health also. Do what you have to in order to help your own mind – it is our greatest wonder and our greatest feature. The heart comes in at a close second, it’s a muscle so use it, walk, run, yoga, take the stairs, do what you’ve got to do. Eat well but eat healthily and wisely. I’ve taken the majority of meat from my diet in recent times and spent over 100 days of this year alcohol free. The whole meat thing may even help the environment and well no booze equals more smiles trust me.

Life is too short not to help others like you. This year I have read some incredible independently published books. I’ve travelled to different lands and worlds via those words, met many characters who have faced many diverse adversities and I don’t regret reading even one word of it. People have been thankful for my review efforts and I’m only doing what I would want others to do for me.

Be safe, be healthy and have fun this festive season. To paraphrase Doc Brown; ‘your future is what ever you want it to be, so make it a good one…’

To everyone who has ever graced this blog with their eyes and taken in just a few of my words; Thank you. See ya’ll next year! (I might have one last book review before the year is out) 

 

Weekly Ramble #53

All this year I have been immersed in being busy. Whether that’s writing stuff, work, moving places, performing or even doing social things. In some senses I don’t think I could function without doing stuff. I know we all need a rest every now and then, the mind must wind down and reflect, right now I’m doing just that (while subconsciously thinking ‘what’s next?’).

While being real busy I just haven’t taken a moment or used any mind space to reflect on that fact that I now have 5 books published. A feat which is actually pretty damn cool, especially after doing it in under 5 years. The truth is and without sounding overindulgent I am damn proud of my work, in turn I am damn proud to know some of you who have pushed me on and on this year and in previous years. Being proud of the good things in life is so important and not everyone will get that. Now I am of a certain age (the kids won’t get this) I have come to appreciate that this life can bite you sometimes. In fact there aren’t many real good days that we have. Be proud of the good things you achieve, wear them, carry them with you, let them remind you it isn’t always bleak. Life is too damn short not to be reminded every day of the good stuff. 

This blog and it’s ‘moderate’ success has been a revelation this year, all you need to do is look at the numbers below to see how things exploded in a matter of months. There are a stack of good supporters this Hall of information must and will pay tribute to next month.

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For those in search of a ‘different’ type of read, my 5th book ‘The Ghost Beside Me’ has literally just been published and is available to download for less than $2 (it always will be). The paperback drops next week. Check out the awesome cover here. It’s a story about love, life and even if people do leave us, their influence lives on inside us.

Peace out and thanks for reading well cultured, well read individual! 

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Is Facebook dead?

Who here actually uses Facebook as their number 1 social media platform?

I’ll admit that good ol’ life invader is probably number 4 in terms of social media platforms I exist on. Just last year I spent the majority of December with the Facebook app deleted and the revelation was, I felt so much better for being without it…

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It’s not news that ‘FB’ have been involved in a bunch of ‘unsavory’ activities when it comes to data, our data. Cambridge Analytica happened and this is without mentioning many more speculative activities the social media giant have been linked to all of which links back to our data. Both Trump and Brexit are could be suggested here…

From all of these revelations, I just get this feeling that things are no longer the same. Yes Facebook boasts a huge amount of users but do they use it as much these days? Is the social network just a reanimated corpse walking around with users who seemingly latch on because there isn’t an alternative? Most of us know their history of less than reputable dealings but I take a look around and long gone are the days where most of the people I know put up statuses on a daily basis. It feels like a ghost town, or a mining town where the gold ran dry.

I’ve boasted for a long time that my usage of ‘FB’ is limited to messenger and events planning. That’s probably the same for most of you. My author page sits idle a lot of the time and I probably post something every other week. The real truth is I don’t know anybody who’s Facebook page is their go-to platform anymore.

Out of all the super businesses in the world Facebook doesn’t actually produce anything. They earn money from advertising and they also take a shit ton of our information on a daily basis. Most of the people who will read this right now will be logged in to Facebook and not bat an eye about it. Much like our devices, Facebook is listening, it’s a harrowing sinister thought that for some reason nobody seems to challenge. You ever talk to someone about a particular subject and then that subject appears in a pop up ad on your browser? I suppose that’s the answer when you ask what they are doing with out data.

Fu**ed up isn’t it? And that’s without mentioning the repercussions social media is having on our mental health. The instant gratification and mining for likes generation are soft and vulnerable by their own means. And the generation just before were brought up on the Simpsons, South Park, Little Britain and the Office and they are just as afraid to say their mind because it could offend. This really is a world trying to figure itself out.

Social media has given birth to that new world and I could go deeper but the world Facebook has created could ultimately be its undoing. It’s already began. This is without even mentioning some of the fantastic positives social media has. Most of you reading this wouldn’t be doing so without social media. Some of the people I have come to know at the other end of a keyboard are probably the reason I haven’t given up. It’s a strange old world.

 

What do you think of Facebook? Have we changed or has Facebook? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Ramble #46

There is no shame in having anxiety. We should never beat ourselves up for what is essentially a reaction or a feeling to something. Like a suspension bridge the cables and struts of it’s anatomy only have a certain tolerance, own own cables and struts (emotions) are under the same stress.

It’s a natural normal thing to feel anxious and the triggers can spring up from anywhere. That big presentation, a speech, an important game and even getting on that plane (for me). Rationalization is hard thing to find in the murk and dark of anxiety, every little thing becomes heightened. It can be hell for sometimes days before and then the actual experience may turn out to have all been in our heads (but even after I still hate flying).

We can debilitate ourselves with thoughts alone, and maybe we were being silly in that moment, but that’s not tackling the issue, that’s just a dismissal. In this day and age especially we must talk about our emotions, they lead us through that murk. Depression, anxiety, nervousness, worry, they are all considered as bad feelings, but they are normal reactions to the life we live. It’s okay to have these feelings, sometimes every day.

The next time you lift something heavy or god forbid do a plank, your arms or abdominal muscles begin to shake, that’s because they are working and again that is something normal like emotion.

In a world where all of us strife to be different we all have one thing that is the same, our emotions, so let’s bloody talk about them more!