David Grace's Blog: David Grace Author Blog

September 26, 2012

We have been having a discussion in the LinkedIn Crime Novel group about book reviews and it made me think more deeply on the subject. Most people, both authors and reviewers, think about reviews in this way: Someone reads the book, summarizes the plot, describes what he/she liked and didn't like, and gives it some kind of a grade or score. But isn’t the main purpose of a review to help readers pick books that they will enjoy reading?

At the base of it all isn't the idea, the desired result, to have a skilled, trusted person act as a filter to sift through hundreds or thousands of books in a genre and pick out only the ones he/she thinks are worth the reader’s time? I suggest that the value of a reviewer is to filter out the bad to mediocre stuff and pass along the good to great stuff.

If you think a major best-selling book is terrible then there is some value in a site publishing a review that essentially says, “I think this is a terrible book because … In my opinion it is a waste of your time and money.”

But, if we are talking about books that people are unlikely to find on their own I think that there isn’t a tremendous amount of utility in a book review website publishing a “don’t buy this book” review or a “this is a mediocre book” review. The odds are very high that the reader will never just stumble across that book on their own so why waste limited time and energy and blog space telling them to skip it?

If you are dealing with little-known books, wouldn’t it be much more helpful to readers to sift out the mediocre and below books and only publish reviews of books you thought were well worth their time? It seems to me that the most useful thing a reviewer can do for a reader is to say:

“I’ve searched through the twenty Sci Fi [or whatever genre] novels that were sent to me last week and I found this one that is terrific. Here is what it’s about and here is why I really liked it. I think that this book is worth a few minutes of your time to check out on Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature. The other nineteen books that I looked at were all mediocre or below so I won’t waste your time with details about them.”

If a review site operated that way the reviewer could probably reject half the books by the time she/he finished the first chapter. As soon as the reviewer found himself frustrated with a book, he/she could stop reading right there and move on to the next candidate. No need to read the whole thing.

Winnow the to-be-reviewed pile down to books that the reviewer thinks scored at least a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 and skip the rest. Limit the review scores to

(7) Good solid meat and potatoes read – Something for the beach/airplane
(8) Very good – add this to your bedtime reading list
(9) Superior – Start reading this one as soon as possible
(10) Terrific – Start reading this book NOW

When you get right down to it, doesn’t the reader just want to know what books are worth his/her time to check out, what the plot is, and why the reviewer liked it?

So, my proposal is that someone start a review site where the books are separately listed by genre and maybe even by sub-genre and the site only prints reviews with the above ratings. Books that aren’t at least a seven on a scale of 1-10 are ignored.

That way the reviewer can plow through the inbox, immediately discarding the books that don’t meet these criteria, and concentrate on the ones that the reviewer thinks are worth his/her reader's time.

Something to think about.

--David Grace
 •  8 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on September 26, 2012 09:56 • 245 views • Tags: book-reviews, reviewers, reviews

July 22, 2012

I have just released my latest, 13th, novel, "The Concrete Kiss." This is a crime novel set in Upstate New York with two plot threads -- a metro detective and an FBI agent on the trail of a cartel hit-man and an injured girl who escapes a predator but whose trouble is not over.

It is currently available on Amazon, Apple and Smashwords. It will be on Barnes & Noble in about a week. The trade paperback edition ($8.99) will be available from Amazon and Wildside Press around September 1st.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on July 22, 2012 11:07 • 106 views • Tags: crime-novel, detective, kidnapping, mystery, new-book, police-procedural, serial-killer

March 30, 2012

After spending a long time thinking about the next book (number 13) and working on the character backgrounds, the plot and the detailed outline, I have finally started writing.

I just finished Chapter Nine, about 14,000 words.

I looked up "cognitive dissonance" on Google a few minutes ago. They list a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- “The true test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time.”

I guess I must have a first-rate mind because I'm certainly feeling that way about this book.

On the one hand, I think I am doing a great job. I think the writing is terrific, that the characters are admirable (or despicable), that the dialog is true-to-life and I feel an emotional tug when I read the scenes.

On the other hand, I think that many people who like mystery novels will not much like this book which means that I'm doing a terrible job. Why do I think that?

Instead of starting with a crime or an action scene, which is the convention, I start with a lone detective in a squad room. To make it worse, by the end of Chapter Nine I still have not included a single action scene -- no depiction of a murder, no gunfight, no car chase. Neither have I introduced the villain, leastwise let the reader in on the villain's plans for his next evil deed if the hero does not succeed in thwarting him.

If all of that wasn't bad enough, I cannot summarize the story in one sentence, or in two, not even in three. Four? Maybe four.

This is practically a primer on how NOT to write a crime novel.

So, here are my two simultaneously held conflicting beliefs:

1) that this will be a terrific book and that I am thrilled with the work I have done so far

2) that I am doing a bad job, -- that crime-novel readers will not like this book, not a simple enough idea and not nearly enough shoot-outs and car chases.

My only option is to keep writing.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on March 30, 2012 11:50 • 91 views • Tags: crime-novel, mystery-novel-structure, new-book, work-in-progress, writing-style

September 22, 2011

I have just joined Goodreads and thought this would be a useful first post.

I have been very pleased with my last book, Shooting Crows At Dawn, and that has encouraged me to get to work on the next novel. I have some ideas for the protagonist and a few of the subsidiary characters. I plan to start the outline next week (late September 2011) and have the book completely outlined by Thanksgiving.

For me, figuring out the story starts with the character. From there I try to figure out what kind of situation he will be involved in and the issues he will need to deal with. These issues need to be emotional and exciting. The story, therefore, grows from the hero's character, not the other way around.

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on September 22, 2011 13:55 • 108 views • Tags: outlining-a-novel

David Grace Author Blog

David Grace
General News & Updates Concerning David Grace's Work
Follow David Grace's blog with rss.