Saturday, 29 October 2011

Fenton is back at Number 2

One day, Oscar. One day...

Still FREE on Amazon
Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Friday, 28 October 2011

New Interview on Kindle Author

A third interview of mine has just been posted on Kindle Author. I have been a busy bee!! My undying gratitude and thanks to David Wiseheart for including me in a fantastic site, of which I have been a fan for some time. David's commitment to indies is inspiring, and his site is, in my opinion, the go-to place for finding new talent. To be in its annals is a thrill indeed.

That concludes the interviews that I have conducted recently. I figured that if I did any more I'd start wearing sunglasses indoors and talking about myself in the third person!

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

The Effect of Having a Free Book on Amazon

I thought I'd share a chart with you. This is the sales ranking figures of Blood & Ash. is in orange, is in blue. Can you spot the day that Fenton went free in America?

Before Fenton went free, it had been a pretty slow month. The low point (or high point!!) of just over 258,000 was my worst sales ranking since Blood & Ash was first published in June. My average sales rank for the month (including that abysmal start) at the moment is just shy of 70,000. My average for the last week is significantly higher. Proof positive that exposure is the be-all and end-all of marketing, and a free book is the best exposure of all.

These figures are out of an approximate total of 850,000 books in the paid Kindle store, so really I shouldn't even moan at being 250,000 - that still means I'm outselling 3/4 of the other books on Amazon, after all. Once I hit the top 25-30,000 I enter the top 100 in category, and that only pushes the numbers higher because the book becomes more visible. I have spent the last two weeks bobbing in and out of the top 100 in gay romance, usually peaking at around #35. If I could just make it onto the first page (top 20) !!

Now I just need to get the UK on board. It galls that my own countrymen seem disinclined to make me rich and famous. Of course, the fact that I have kept this little venture Top Secret to avoid "pity purchases" from friends and family who might feel obliged to buy my book probably hasn't helped. It does mean, however, that all the purchases that I do get are genuine. That doubles the excitement all on its own. It has also made me appreciate America in a whole new way - especially because all my earnings from the US are tax exempt as they count as "overseas earnings". The downside is that I have to fill in an IRS tax return next year. If anyone knows a good accountant who is prepared to work for free, now is the time to speak up...

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Second Author Interview!!

Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the wonderful and talented Isabella Tyler for her blog. We had a great time discussing the challenges faced by indies today, the best marketing techniques, and graffiti. It certainly wasn't a run-of-the-mill interview, and Isabella asked some interesting questions, which I have done my best to answer in an interesting manner!! Isabella and I have a lot in common, and I look forward to collaborating with her again in the future. The mutual appreciation society starts here!

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Short Story Extract

Here's a sneak peek at one of the shorts I'm working on for a new collection, due for release in November 2011. Enjoy!!


Tom looked at his reflection in the mirror and winced. He’d deserved that punch, he knew that. He’d behaved like a total dick the other night, he wouldn’t have blamed Dean if he’d beaten him to a pulp. And he could have, too. Tom considered himself lucky that after the first swing Dean had simply dragged on his clothes and left. He had no idea where that foul tirade had come from. What did he care if Dean cheated on his girlfriend, or hid in the closet? He wasn’t normally like that, he’d always thought that he was an easy-going, live-and-let-live kind of guy. Apparently somewhere inside him was a vicious queen, longing to get out.
Tom studied the mottled yellows and greens carefully. At least the swelling had gone down and the garish purple had faded. It didn’t look too bad. It wasn’t too noticeable. He touched a finger to the sensitive skin, wincing again. At least he could see out of that eye now. A week ago it had been puffed up to hell. Thank god for not being in work.
Of course, they all spotted it immediately, crowding round and wanting to know what had happened. Tom told them some haphazard story about a fight outside a bar, and they all applauded him as he assured them that the other guy had come off far worse. All except one of them, anyway. Mike stood by his locker, scowling. Tom hung back after the others had filed through to the common room, knowing that his boss had something that he wanted to say.
“I didn’t figure you for the brawling type,” Mike muttered, stowing his shirt in his locker viciously.
“I’m not,” Tom answered.
“So what the hell is that then?” Mike pointed at his eye.
“Not a bar brawl,” Tom admitted.
“What then?”
“A rough trick.” Tom attempted a sheepish grin.
“He said that I got what was coming to me.” Tom thought he might have pushed that a bit far. Judging from Mike’s horrified expression, he clearly didn’t get Tom’s twisted sense of humour. He shook his head reassuringly. “Relax, I’m kidding. It was an argument that got out of hand, that’s all.”
“At a bar?”
“No, at my place.”
Mike’s eyes narrowed. “You mean with some guy that you, you,” he paused, not saying the words.
“That I slept with? Yes. Why, is that a problem?” Tom held his breath as he waited for Mike to answer, realising with a pang that he did want it to be a problem. A big problem.
“And he hit you?” Mike asked, avoiding Tom’s question.
“Yes. But I was pretty shitty to him. I said some things that I shouldn’t have.”
“That didn’t give him the right to hit you,” Mike told him emphatically. “No-one has the right to hurt you.”
You hurt me, Tom’s heart whispered. Mentally, Tom stamped on the treacherous organ. “It doesn’t matter,” he told him, “it’s not like I’m ever going to see him again.”
“Good.” Mike nodded, satisfied.
“Really?” God, Tom hoped his voice didn’t sound as needy as he thought it did.
“You deserve better,” Mike told him gruffly, shutting his locker. “Someone who’ll take care of you.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Looks like it.” Mike let his gaze linger over Tom’s bruised face. Tom looked back at him and Mike cleared his throat uncomfortably.
“Anyway - ” he turned to press past Tom, but the younger man reached out, stopping him.
“ – Don’t. just don’t, Tom, please.” Mike’s head was bowed, his eyes locked on the tips of Tom’s fingers as they lightly touched his arm.
Tom felt his whole body vibrate with uncertainty, every nerve connected to the feather-light feel of Mike’s warm skin. “He didn’t mean anything,” Tom told him quietly.
“You don’t need to explain,” Mike choked.
“Yes I do. It’s important.”
“No, it’s not.” Mike shook Tom’s hand off, severing their connection. “It’s none of my business who you sleep with, just don’t come to work looking like that again or I’ll send you home.”
Tom slumped against his locker as Mike strode out of the room. What the hell? He asked himself angrily. He’d swore that he wasn’t going to do this, that he was going to come to work and treat Mike just the same as everybody else. Yeah, right, a snide little voice in his head taunted. He promised himself the same thing every day, and every day he broke that promise. Why was he so keen on Mike, why couldn’t he just forget about him and get over it? It seemed like every time he saw his boss he fell for him a little bit more, and he hated the effect that Mike was having on him. He didn’t get like this, he wasn’t some needy, clingy queen; he was independent and in control. He had a job he loved, a nice flat and great mates. Why would he want to complicate that? He was twenty-one, why limit himself, why tie himself down now? He had the rest of his life to fall in love and settle down and be boring.
Love. He recoiled from the very idea. He knew all about love: love was following his best friend around school like a lost puppy, putting up with all manner of shit just to be near him. Love was sobbing himself to sleep night after endless night because the guy who’d taken his virginity hadn’t called him back. Love was a thousand shattered dreams and a flood of memories that made him cringe. Love could fuck off.


Enjoyed this extract? More can be found at Goodreads. The collection is due for release Nov 2011.
Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Eek! My First Interview

I have recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by a very talented author and blogger, Cyndia Rios-Myers, who gave me the opportunity to wax lyrical about myself (my favourite subject!)

No, I'm not that vain, but it was a really exciting experience, and great exposure too. With Fire & Ice still less than three weeks old, I'll swim in all the marketing streams that I can find. The interview also gave me a chance to discuss what I hope to achieve with my writing, my method, and my views on the entire indie publishing phenomena.

It's a great blog, by a fantastic author, and it's well worth a look even if you're not interested in what I've got to say. Why not check it out now?

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fire & Ice on Indie Snippets

A short extract from Fire & Ice has been published today on Indie Snippets. Check it out now!!

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Going Free on Amazon ~ Update

Downloads of Fenton slowed a little after the first manic weekend, and I now stand at 2400 downloads in 1 week. I'm averaging about 200 a day at the minute. Fenton is still #3 in gay fiction, but has slipped to #21 in fantasy. Oscar has somehow sneaked past me again and is back at #1. I was devastated on Wednesday to see that I was being beaten to the top spot by a book advertising itself as containing "lots of angry male/male revenge sex". I mean, how rude!!

Follow on sales are picking up. In the last week I've sold 3-4 copies of Blood & Ash a day (compared to 3-4 copies in a good week previously). All 4 of my books are in the top 50,000 across the Amazon store, Blood & Ash is consistently ranked in the top 100 in the gay romance section, and sales of Fire & Ice are running at approximately 60% of those for Blood & Ash. I am a happy, happy bunny.

I may not be making millions, but Fenton has only been free for a week. Fire & Ice has only been available for a fortnight. I stated in an earlier blog that I didn't anticipate getting the staggering download numbers seen by other authors in more mainstream genres, but I still think this is a good thing. I can safely assume that at least 50% of the people that have downloaded Fenton haven't even got round to reading it yet, but already sales have increased dramatically across the board for my other books. That I am holding my position in my genre indicates that the "right" people are seeing my story.

Slightly worrying side-effect: Fenton (the character) has fans. People have been contacting me all week asking if I'm going to expand his story. Now, Fenton's character was written for a very specific purpose. His story continues in Fire & Ice, where he fulfils that purpose. I had no plans to do much more with him after that. If you've read Fire & Ice, the reason why he's got to go will be pretty evident. It's a shame because I like Fenton. In a lot of ways he is very like me. (The review which states that my story "very accurately portrayed asexuality and all of its frustrations" had me a little bit worried though!!) Fenton's story is sad by circumstance of who he is, and what he wants. Will he ever have a HEA? Probably not. But the messages I've got this week have set me to thinking about how his story is going to end. You never know, I may surprise myself yet...

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Why Men?

That is, why would a lesbian write almost exclusively about men? Seriously, I have hardly any female characters in any of my book, and I'm afraid that those I do have, I don't treat very well. They're dead, or they're the baddies, or they're the long-suffering wives / girlfriends / hags of the men around whom the action revolves.

I know I should be more "right-on, sista", especially being part of the rug munching fraternity. Sorry, sorority. It's not that I don't like women - that's the exact opposite of the truth. But I do feel guilty occasionally that I don't give them more time in my writing. There has been a lot of guff written in the past about lesbians writing about male experience, just look at the (admittedly, few) serious critiques of Mary Renault's oeuvre. The suspicion abounds that the lesbian who glorifies male experience must want to be a man.

This, I would like to state for the record, is so far from the truth as to be laughable. Thanks to my (perhaps, too) understanding parents, I basically grew up a boy. Don't believe me? Well they had various artists record it for posterity. Here is me aged 5:

Yes, I was a surly child. Actually, I'm frowning because I was watching the TV, which was the only way to keep me still. Already, I hated having long hair. My little sister has always had glorious long locks; until I was about eleven I always had a crew cut. Check me out when I was ten:

Not even my friends recognise me in this picture. Personally, I think I was quite a handsome young man. I was often told so by strangers, who usually freaked out and looked pityingly at my parents when I turned around and angrily insisted, "I'm not a boy, I'm a girl." It didn't help that I was usually wearing my favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sweater and was fishing at the time.

My parents' patience was rewarded when I turned eleven. I was coaxed into growing my hair, partly because I had been asked to be a bridesmaid at my cousin's wedding, and partly because I was going to "big school", and I don't think my parents were quite ready for me to end up on a register. Look how I turned out, age 15:

Quite the girly girl. My hair was halfway down my back at that age, and it pretty much stays that way. I hate the hairdresser, and if I am coaxed into going once a year, that's it. I had my annual haircut in June this year, thirteen months after the one previous. Before that, I hadn't had my hair cut in over two years. It was ridiculously long. These days I try to keep it just above my shoulders, and usually think that it's about that length until I have to move it out of the way before sitting down. Then I huff and puff and go back to the hairdressers and draw a crowd who all stand around and gasp as I say "I want you to cut off about twenty-five inches." Last time I made the mistake of telling them that it had been a year since my last haircut and I was promptly surrounded by about six hairdressers, all vying with each other to find a split end. I kid you not. (They failed, by the way. Proof positive that if you don't constantly dye and blowdry and straighten your hair it can be perfectly healthy all on its own for years on end).

The point I am making, in a very roundabout way, is that if I wanted to be a man, I would be. I do not and am not. I am not, admittedly, the most girly girl in the world, but I'm hardly a bulldyke either. Honestly, you might as well have a boyfriend as date some of the women that I have met in gaybars in my time. I am feminine, and I like my women to be so, too. 

So my exclusion or omission of female characters is nothing to do with any internalised gender issues that I've got, or even anything to do with the type of women that I'm attracted to. Admittedly I have far more male friends than female, most of them gay. Out of my closest friends, only two are girls (straight). I only hang around with one straight man socially, the rest are gay. And after living for three years in Manchester, that's a lot of gay men that I know. So perhaps I write what I know. My day job is in construction (the office, I'd like to point out. I am not a hod carrier, no matter what my best friend tells you). I work with two women (soon to be one), and fifteen men. Day in, day out I am surrounded by men, both professionally and socially.

I like men. I just don't like them. I am not one of these political lesbians who thinks that they need to hit back at "the man". The world would be a very boring place without men in it. Men are, in my experience, much more easy-going than women, much more difficult to offend, easier to win round when you do offend them, and less likely to hold a grudge. If a man thinks you're being a dickhead, he'll tell you. He might even hit you. But then he'll get over it. A woman will seeth and plot endlessly and never, ever forgive and forget, no matter what she tells you. I know, I am one.

I also understand men. Without bragging, I am very good at "getting" people, I can usually tell exactly what makes someone tick within an hour of meeting them. I usually have people sussed a bit too well, if anything. People distrust what I know about them. And, oddly enough, I have always had more sympathy with men. Perhaps I'm jaded. I have met far too many women in my time who will let the men (or women) in their lives treat them like doormats and walk all over them, and still go back for more. I have no patience with endless rounds of self-pity when I can see the pattern a mile off. Your boyfriend cheated on you? For the tenth time this year? And you don't understand why? Really??? Pur-lease.

I know it's easy to stand on the sidelines and judge. Anyone can give advice from the outside. But there has to come a point where people grow up, stop blaming themselves, or the "slappers" that keep falling into their boyfriends' laps, and take some responsibility for their own happiness. I can kinda understand why the men cheat. Now I don't condone cheating, I think it's a lazy and cowardly thing to do. If a relationship's not working then end it, that's my philosophy. But presented with someone who will let you stamp all over her and still come back for more, the temptation to see just how far you can push it must be massive. It becomes an interesting social experiment, and certainly livens up life if your relationship is boring the hell out of you and you're half-looking for an out anyway.

Now I sound like a misogynist. I'm not. Like I said, I'm jaded. Men are just more interesting than women, or at least, the men in my life are more interesting than the women. And maybe that's the problem. When I think of an interesting character, I always think of a man. Of course, male experience is more conducive to good fiction. Men are traditionally the ones that go out and do things. Men are the ones who - traditionally - have the greater burden of responsibility. They are also expected to maintain a stiff upper lip and not let their emotions get the best of them. Ergo a man who is struggling to find his place in the world, or to contain some emotion that is threatening to overwhelm him, is going to be more interesting by default. If a woman falls in love with someone that she can't be with, it stretches credulity to imagine that she just bottles it up and doesn't go and sob with her girlfriends over a bottle of wine (whine?) and let it all out. The kind of inner conflict that is so much a part of writing entertainingly about men is negated if one's character is female.

My male characters are a mass of contradictions: they combine strength and vulnerability, power and helplessness. There are reasons why certain images are cliched, like the crying vampire or the brooding cowboy. The dichotomy between strength and weakness is, and has always been, a source of fascination. It is no accident that these cliched personas are never female.

There is, perhaps, one more reason why I don't write about women. As a gay woman, writing about men (usually men who are attracted to other men) I can write about queer experience without it becoming personal. My characters can do anything - literally, anything - and all eyes won't swivel back to me. If I write a BDSM sex scene, for example, (which I never have, BTW) and it's between two women, I know exactly what's coming next. All my friends will start looking at me differently, and think "so that's what she's in to". I can explore the gamut of human emotions and experience without it ever being perceived as being my emotions, or my experience. By writing about my polar opposite, but yet still a minority that I understand and belong to, I can write with both authority and authorial distance. And perhaps that's the best reason of all why my characters are male.

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Going Free on Amazon is Terrifying!


Yes, that's 1000 sales racked up in just over 24 hours. I am currently 151 across the entire Kindle store, number 2 in category. Last night I peaked at 119 overall, and I outsold Oscar Wilde. I can die happy.

There are 836,383 books in the Amazon kindle store at the moment. There are no exact figures, but thousands of them are free. Amazon crashed after I reached book #5000 in their search engine (sorted lowest price first) and I was still knee-deep in free books. To be number 119 is quite an achievement.

The fact the Fenton has gone free has also brought me additional sales from unexpected sources. I posted a link on my Facebook page, and someone in the UK replied that she couldn't see it for free. That's because it's only gone free in the US store. I offered her a free copy anyway, and bless her heart she bought Fenton and Fire & Ice from Amazon, for full price.

I am only on the second day of this rollercoaster experiment, and have not seen any significant increase in sales of my other books yet. ML Stewart tells me that his secondary sales didn't start coming in for three or four days. After all, no-one reads all those free books immediately, do they? I have posted links in a number of relevant groups on Goodreads and have had some early responses from people who've snagged copies. An announcement has also gone out to a couple of those groups (approx. 10,000 people in total) courtesy of a couple of lovely, lovely moderators. Not all of them will read it, not all of them will be interested. But some will.

I don't hold out much hope of hitting the Top 100 across the full store. That's not me being pessimistic, but realistic. The number 1 book in my genre peaked at 114 across the store. I just don't think enough people buy gay-themed books to make the Top 100. I see this as an advantage: the 1000 people who have downloaded my book have found it by genre and keyword searches. They are looking for it. It hasn't been presented to them and downloaded solely because it's free. I am sure that if I broke the Top 100 my sales would triple, or quadruple. But an awful lot of those copies would languish unread, bumping shoulders with dozens of other stories that have been downloaded just for the sake of it. I know, I am guilty of that, too. Worse, people with no interest in my genre would read it. I am already braced for the dreaded negative reviews which start "I don't like this genre..." By keeping my head below the parapet I am hoping to avoid most of that. I am in the top 2 or 3 (free) books in my genre; I am on the first page of any search in my field. The people who want to find my book will find it - they are doing, at a staggering rate. What that will lead to, god only knows...
Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Friday, 14 October 2011

Fenton is Free on Amazon

...and B&N, and Sony, Kobo, Diesel, Smashwords, iTunes etc etc. But Amazon is the biggie! In the last 4 hours I've had 200 downloads, am ranked #315 overall in the Amazon (free) store, and #3 in genre. I can live with that. Watch out Oscar, here I come...

Of course the point of this is to get follow-on sales for the rest of my series. I have been avidly following the blog of another indie, ML Stewart (highly recommended) and had gazed with jealous awe at the figures he reported after his first book, The Facebook Killer (Part One), went free in the UK store. 22,000 downloads in 2 weeks, and a 20% (and rising) follow-on rate for sales of Part 2.

Now MLS writes thrillers, I am writing gay fantasy. There's a huge difference in genre there, and I know that my downloads are probably going to reach nothing like those numbers, just because mine is a niche genre. Hell, I'm number 3 already!

My current follow-on sales rate is pretty good. I've not sat down and crunched all of the numbers, but the Amazon pages of my books tell me that those who buy Fenton buy Blood and Ash, and those who buy Blood & Ash buy Fire & Ice. Now I know those numbers are going to drop a bit, just because there are people out there who will download pretty much *anything* if it's free. (I know this because I am one of them). Some of them will hate my story, and some of them will (I hope!) love it. But there are likely more people going to be ambivalent to it than if I left it in the paid store. There is also a strong likelihood that it will sit, unloved, on a large number of kindles for months, and maybe even forever. I am guilty of this too.

I am watching this little experiement unfurl with baited breath. I will let you know how it goes...

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Gay Marriage Debate Rumbles On...

The SNP are revolting. (And they're protesting gay marriage too!!) Apparently letting men marry men; or women marry women, would have "harmful", "destructive" and "dangerous" consequences. Gay marriage "attacks and demonises Christianity" and will lead to "social disintegration, sexual confusion and greater intolerance". That's intolerance of Christians, not gays. Discriminating against gays is fine and dandy, and not really discrimination at all (or at least, not discrimination that matters). Gays, after all, are only a "tiny minority," and as we have seen before, the smaller the minority, the more acceptable it is to deny them any of the basic rights enjoyed by the majority.

Sunday, 9 October 2011


For those who don't know, that's National Novel Writing Month. November is the month when anyone and everyone who wants to write all club together and endeavour to each put 50,000 words on paper. It's a daunting task. 1667 words a day doesn't sound like much, but believe me it is.

I am taking the opportunity to start on Book 3 of the Lost Realm series, which will conclude the trilogy. In the meantime, to keep my hand in I am working on a series of m/m shorts. They're only about 4k each, so a first draft is taking me about 6 hours to write. I've just finished one now (and am putting off typing it out to blog instead!!) and I'll publish them as a collection. The beauty of writing small is that it's super-quick to write, edit, read, edit, reread, edit, get the beta readers in, edit, and publish. I'm planning on there being maybe half a dozen or so, making the book around 25-30k, and it should be ready by the end of the month if I can do a story every couple of days. Watch this space!

Between then and now, why not check NaNoWriMo out? It could be great fun. I already have six competitors writing buddies signed up with me, why not join in too? What's to lose?
Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Friday, 7 October 2011

Pity the Reviewer

I am a prolific reader, and always have been. It is no exaggeration to say that I haven't stopped reading since I picked up my very first book and finished it all on my own. It was The Three Billy Goats Gruff, a Ladybird hardback, and I can still remember the moment when I finished it. I was maybe three or four.

As a voracious reader, I have also left my fair share of reviews. I am a member of the review site Goodreads and I have already read over 100 books this year. As an author, I know how exciting (or devastating) a review can be. I have seen countless threads on different author forums bemoaning vicious and aggressive reviews. It seems that the lower the rating - often - the more savage the reviewer gets.

I, personally, don't understand this. I might struggle through a book that I hate (and I have done on many occasions for uni) but I understand that at the end of the day no-one's died; the world hasn't ended. If a book is truly that bad, then just stop reading. Don't buy another book by that author. I don't see the need for the aggression that seems rife among a certain sector of reviewers, who don't think it's enough to slate the book, but have to criticise the author personally, everyone who's ever left the book a good review (often questioning if those reviews are valid) and usually the author's parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, children and pets along with it.

For those of who who think I'm banging my indie drum and exaggerating, let me quote extracts from a review left on another author's book (a book, BTW, that I have read and which I honestly believe is fantastic).

Wow! This is deadly bad. Thank god it's only 20-pages-long-bad...Here's why this story's DOA and why your book & story don't make you any money or get accepted by publishers, Mr. Author: No plot, no urgency, no conflict, no character development, no dialogue, no setting, no description. No nuthin', Dude, except whining. Very uninteresting whining at that, since there's no Voice at all, let alone a unique one. Take some classes. Get into a critique group with published writers, and not solely self-published ones. Read Hawthorne's stories "The Artist of the Beautiful", "The Birthmark", and "Rappaccini's Daughter". Read Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado". All are free, and while the former's might slow down at times in earlier written work, both authors have great plots, conflict, urgency, and character development (and deal better with the theme of obsession than this story does). While you're at it, get a new Muse, preferably an interesting one with some personality and character development...

Really, is there any need for half of that? And that wasn't all of it by any means. It just strikes me as unnecessary.

This sort of thing got me thinking about the mentality of people who review books, films, computer games, anything. Not the people (like me) who review things occasionally on Amazon, or Goodreads, or wherever, when we really do or don't like something, but the people who want to make a name for themselves as reviewers, and want to be seen as an authority in their field. I had a quick shuffle through some of the top reviewers on a number of different sites, and found some interesting patterns.

Firstly, the overall top reviewers generally have an average review rating of 3-4* (out of 5*). These are usually the people who have reviewed over a long, long period of time, and built up a large number of reviews organically. When you change the filter settings and look at the top reviewers this week it's an entirely different story. The most prolific reviewers on a week-by-week basis are generally reviewing anything up to 400 books in a single week (how, I have no idea) and the average rating is much, much lower: certainly less than 3*, usually less than 2*.

Now the way I (and, I think, most people) view the 5* system, is as thus:
5* - this is the greatest book that has ever been written
4* - I really liked it
3* - I liked it
2* - I didn't really like it
1* - this is the worst book that has ever been written

Therefore the number of 1* and 5* reviews should be pretty low, right? If we use the extremes all the time, they cease to be extreme. I have always found 2-4* reviews much more useful when I'm making up my mind if I want to buy something than I have found either of the extremes. As a reviewer I trend at just under 4*, which I'm quite pleased with. (A) it means I'm probably a nice person, and (B) I have enjoyed the majority of the books that I've read. As reading is something I do in my free time, for pleasure, I'm glad that I seem to have found a hobby that I enjoy.

Now, if I reviewed 400 books in one week and on average I didn't really like any of them, I'd stop reading. I'd get another hobby, because that one clearly ain't working for me. But this is where I - and people like me - differ from quasi-"professional" reviewers. These people don't read because they like reading, but because they want to make a name for themselves. Their end concern is not with the book in their hands, or the one before or even the one after. It's not about being entertained at all. It is about being a part of the new literati, who think that because they can read, that they can critique. Or should that be criticise?

I have studied literature at uni to Master's level: I can critique with the best of them. I can spot a plot flaw at twenty paces, and wax lyrical about grammatical technique. I have made a career out of picking novels apart. That doesn't mean that I compare every book I've reviewed with every other book I've ever read. I don't name-drop "literary" authors or works. My reviews, ultimately, are no more about me than that are about the authors whose books I am reviewing. They are about the books themselves: if I thought that they were good or bad, and why. Always, why. With each review I am making a statement about myself and my tastes, granted, but really I'm just trying to be helpful to any future readers.

This is not the bitter rant of an indie author who has had their work slated. Thank god and *touch wood* my reviews have been generally positive. Some have been downright gushing. I am sure, however, that my day will come, and I have a very stoical approach to negative reviews, and here's some figures from that will demonstrate why:

The Da Vinci Code - 302 one star reviews
Twilight - 109 one star reviews
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - 104 one star reviews
Wuthering Heights - 20 one star reviews (this is my favourite novel of all time)
Pride and Prejudice - 11 one star reviews (I agree with them all!!)
The Bible - 2 one star reviews

No book will ever be universally loved. The beautiful thing about being human is that we all still differ in our tastes. There will be lovers and haters of absolutely everything that has ever been written. As Stephen King said, if all the positive reviews are true, then so too are all the negative ones. There is no need to stress out if someone doesn't like your book, because someone else will love it. Authors, take heart. Don't stress the bad reviews.

Reviews, take note. There is no need to do anything more than critique the book that you are reviewing. There is no need to make a review personal. And if your average rating sinks lower than 3*, perhaps it's time you got a different hobby.

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Fire & Ice - Lost Realm Book 2 - 08 Oct 2011

Fire & Ice, The second book in my Lost Realm series, is going to be released on 8th October 2011. You heard it here first!

At 60,000 words, it's almost twice the length of Blood & Ash, and promises twice the passion and the heartache. For those who can't wait, there are two excerpts on Goodreads to whet your appetites!

Lonely vampires; fairies in love; evil witches and a world at war...the story continues next Saturday.

Ash is about to discover that love against the odds isn't easy, and Skye worries that love alone might never be enough.

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories.
Find all her books on Amazon now