Monthly Archives: August 2012

Competition: Judge my book blurb – win a free copy

I’m hoping to publish my debut book, Ocean of Dust in late September, so it’s time to run a few competitions, and hopefully you can help me out.

Below is my proposed book blurb for Ocean of Dust, a YA fantasy. Please read and leave a comment about how much it compels you to buy the book. The price will be $2.99. I would also greatly appreciate any suggestions that you have about how to improve it.


  • A free copy of the ebook to THREE (3) lucky winners, chosen at random. You can select from any of the standard ebook formats.
  • Leave a comment stating whether the blurb would excite you to buy the book, and other suggestions or comments you want to make.
  • Make sure that your Comment name has some means for me to contact you, or you can’t win! I don’t recommend you put an email address, but your web site, Facebook Page, Twitter handle, any means for me to reach you is fine.
  • Competition ends at midnight Aug 30th and I shall announce winners shortly after.

The Blurb  (Please see the most recent version in the comments below:)

The oceans of Sechina are sprawling basins of grey dust, so fine that it flows like liquid. Trading vessels use the mysterious force known as Flux, rather than wind power.

When thugs attack a rich boy in the street, 14-year old Lissa attempts to help, only to be captured along with him. She unwillingly becomes a servant on a trading ship, bound for distant lands across the ocean of dust. A fellow serving girl does more than attack and trick her at every opportunity—she bullies Lissa to where she’s afraid for her life. Worse yet, first officer Farq has hated Lissa since day one, promising her next beating will end with her death.

Cryptic whispers in her head drive her toward a destiny tied to the ship’s creepy navigator. She alone shares his mysterious ability, which is linked to the ocean of dust itself. After accidentally uncovering a conspiracy involving secret weapons, she must master her new talent and muster up courage to save the ship and its crew. All is not as it seems, but can she unravel the clues before it’s too late?

Thank you in advance for everyone taking part, and Good Luck!


Should authors review books?

This post concerns the amateur reviewing of books, e.g. on Amazon or Goodreads, as opposed to professional reviewing for magazines, publishing trade papers or for publishers themselves.

I’ve been an avid reviewer my whole life, and in fact did use to review for several magazines in the UK. I haven’t done that for a couple of decades, but still publish reviews online. I enjoy it. I’m a firm believer that reviews are a critical tool in assessing whether to read a book or not.

I also believe that reviews should be honest. We all know that a certain number of glowing reviews are written by the author’s friends. That’s always going to happen. On a typical book, these should be dwarfed over time by legitimate reviews. There are also those odd 1-star reviews that are brutal attacks upon the author themselves. These are the extremes. A good review should:

  • Be constructive and fair
  • Concentrate on the book and not the reviewer’s opinion of the author
  • Be balanced – don’t concentrate on only the great or the worst
  • Make comparisons only if applicable, either to the author’s other books, or a completely different author
  • Not include spoilers without ample warning
  • Think very carefully about the rating. Even a rating of 3/5 is usually considered a liked book, though the tendency is to always give a 5 if you like it.
  • Never be an agreement between authors to trade 5-star reviews

I’m not a fan of spoilers, and avoid them, but I notice that many reviewers give away considerable plot detail.

To me, the reviewer must serve the reader as much as the author. I’m sure that many authors believe that reviews are solely there as validation of their efforts – he with the most 5-stars wins! It shouldn’t be a numbers game. I like to think that the content of the review is important too. When I write a review, I want to reward the author (if warranted) but also to educate the reader. I will mention bad things. The author may hate me for it, but I hope that the reader thanks me. Don’t you hate to pick up a book rated 5-stars and find it is written terribly? What happened to the credibility of all those reviewers? Certainly much can be left to opinion and preference, but I just can’t see how a poorly written book gets so many good reviews.

Which brings us to what goes into a review? Here it gets fuzzy. I’ve noticed that many readers can accept poor writing, typos, and bad ebook formatting if the plot is excellent. Definitely, plot and entertainment should prevail – that’s why we read. That’s no excuse for poor quality in my book (pun intended), and sometimes my reviews will call out errors in craft. But should I? Opinions are divided about whether readers (non-authors) care about this. I argue that they do. I accept that price point plays a factor, but even on a $2.99 ebook, I want to know that the author cared enough about his audience to edit his work and master his craft. I also accept that even best selling, superstar authors have typos in their books, and that we shouldn’t expect perfection from an author’s debut work.

It’s difficult for we writers to review a book. It’s too easy to empathize with the author, and know how we would feel to get a 3-star review or worse. It is tempting to give 5-stars even if the book deserved 4. Does that dinging of 1-star really matter? Aren’t we being mean? Just give 5-stars and our conscience is clear, and the author thrilled. Aren’t we all brothers in arms? If we dole out 5-star reviews, maybe those authors will reciprocate. Worse, will the author engage in tit-for-tat if we are less than glowing in our review? Oh, the stress of it all.

This is undoubtedly why many writers/authors do not review books. If we are “in” the industry, maybe we should bow out and leave reviews to genuine readers. This would be a shame, because I think writers can bring a unique perspective to reviews that can nudge all of us to hone our craft. But can we be honest with our fellow writers?

This Guardian article makes the case for only reviewing good books, and staying silent on bad ones. That could work, but is it fair for the reader?

What do you think? Do you review books? Are you unbiased? Do you always give 5-star reviews so as not to feel mean?

Guest Post: My Writing Journey, by Lisa Orchard

Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you! My name is Lisa Orchard and I’m a Young Adult Writer. I’m guest blogging today here at Graeme’s site. I would like to take a second to thank Graeme for allowing me to visit today. Thanks Graeme!

He asked me here to share my journey to publication with all of you wonderful people. So here we go!

When I was younger, I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t pursue this dream until after I had my kids. I started reading to my kids when they were babies, and one day while reading a book to my son, I said to myself, “I could do this.” So I wrote a children’s picture book and sent it off to a publisher. Of course, it was rejected but this publisher gave me some great advice. She told me to join a writing group. So, I started my novel, and with a thudding heart, I took my very rough draft each week to my new writing group. And boy, did they let me have it! LOL! That’s okay because some of their advice was actually pretty good.

Before I knew it my manuscript was ready to go, so I started sending query letters out just to see what kind of response I would get. I didn’t believe I would get published but I wanted to see what agents had to say. To my surprise, I received some requests to see my full manuscript. I was so excited. Then inevitably came the rejection letters that everyone told me I would receive. Instead of being crushed, I asked a few of the agents what they didn’t like about my story. Of course, quite a few ignored my questions and didn’t respond. But the one who did gave me some excellent advice. She told me that she thought my book would be better if it were written in third person. I had originally written it in first person.

Yep! You guessed it I rewrote the book! And the first publisher I sent it to, accepted it!

So if I can be so bold as to offer some advice to aspiring writers it’s this. Don’t get bogged down by the rejection letters. I looked at them as a learning tool that got me one step closer to that “yes” I was looking for. And don’t be afraid to ask an agent why they didn’t like your book. They could offer you that golden nugget you need to reach your goal.

Now, I’ve got two books available for your teens reading pleasure. Below are the covers and the blurbs. The first one is “The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer”, and the second is “The Super Spies and the High School Bomber”. They’re both available now.

Graeme: Thanks very much for popping by and sharing, Lisa. Some great advice there. I won’t say anymore, because I’m sure everyone is dying to check out your books… (and I absolutely love the covers!)

Click on the image for more info.

Buy now from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Click on the image for more info.

Buy now from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

How to contact Lisa:   —   Facebook   —   Twitter: @lisaorchard1