Fantasy and Science Fiction Book Reviews: A Matter of Industry Respect

by | Mar 10, 2012 | Blog | 7 comments

Getting book reviews is hard. That’s what I have learned after having my book out for the last two months. And since I’ve spent most of my life in sales and marketing, I know how valuable marketing is. You can write an amazing masterpiece, but if nobody ever reads it, well, then it’s not going to do very well (and no, I’m not saying my stories are amazing masterpieces). So, to help get readers, you need reviews.

And I’m not talking about the Amazon reader reviews. Those are great, and if you want to do a writer you like a favor, write one on there, but that is not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about more formal reviews from bloggers and critics for magazines, e-zines, genre sites, and that sort of thing.

Book reviews are great marketing (well, assuming they don’t say your book is crap and not fit to train puppies where to pee—that is not the greatest fodder for marketing, although, if you’re clever enough, you might even make that work somehow). If you can get your book reviewed decently, you can get readers. But it turns out that, if you are a new writer, it’s really, really hard to get a review, and, since word-of-mouth marketing is the best kind of marketing there is, well, you can see how hard it is to get going effectively. Word of mouth advertising is the best form of marketing, but it has to start somewhere.

So the trouble for many new (and even semi-established) writers is that, well, nobody writes reviews. You’d think they would given the obvious value of doing them. I mean, lots of sites out there actually do write reviews, but the second a review site pops up that is even halfway good, the reviewer/blogger operating the site gets inundated with requests and, BAM, he or she is suddenly unapproachable.

I can’t tell you how many of those instances I have found. They’re all slammed. Some have started charging; others get hit up by the big-time publishers who send advanced copies of all kinds of big-name stuff, and pretty soon, the new authors, like me, are right out of luck again. Supply and demand, and big surprise, the moneyed authors get the best access. And no, I’m not bitter. I want to be moneyed too. However, I also would like to have a path to climb to get there. I don’t mind waiting my turn, paying my dues, all that rot. But I want an avenue.

So, I’ve decided that this is what I should do. If I’m going to fuss and mumble about not being able to get reviews from any of those fantasy and science fiction oriented sites, what kind of hypocrite would I be when here I have a website dedicated to writing science fiction and fantasy and I’m not willing to do the very thing I’m bitching about. In fact, I think it’s a duty. And, since, for whatever reason, my book has taken off right out of the gate, I think it’s only fair to thank Providence by doing occasional reviews.

I’m not only going to review indie authors, and I’m not only going to review brand new books, but I am going to do mainly that as often as I can. I’ll review what I want to read: new, old, established author or no-name like me. But I’m going to review. It’s the right thing to do.

So, beyond that, I’ll just lay out my rating system and get on with it. I’ve decided that I don’t really want to just do a 1-to-5 star thing, because, well, it’s too normal. I was going to do a 1-to-10 scale, but that seems like it leaves too much wiggle room for me to not have to commit to an opinion. So, I decided, since fantasy is my favorite genre, and it’s mainly for geeky people like me, I would make the scale below serve as my five levels of review.

Epic Dragon: The Epic Dragon will be my “5-star” review. I will try to be very judicious in giving these out, because, frankly, there has to be some difficulty in getting the top spot, otherwise it becomes meaningless. Nothing is perfect. And while I won’t require perfection (if I thought I could recognize it anyway), I will demand that I feel that “book hangover” thing you get when you finish a really amazing story and you are kind of depressed that you won’t get to be with the characters or in those places anymore.

Hot Princess: Everyone likes hot princesses because everyone either wants to be a hot princess or be with a hot princes (and I even know a few who want both). Either way, this is a highly desirable rating, and I’ve picked this icon to signify the value (at least in my opinion) of how hard it will be for a book to get ranked so high, and how fun it will be to spend time with as a reader.

Center Centaur: The Center Centaur is just that, the middle of my ranking, and a fun pun because I needed an adjective for him. The bottom line with this rank is, if a book gets it, I liked it, but I wasn’t blown away. I readily admit right now that there are books that I would give this rating too that would probably piss some of you off. I can tell you right now Frank Herbert’s Dune gets a Center Centaur from me, and so does Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon and those are great books. So, with this rating, you’ll get my two-cents and then you’ll have to read the books for themselves and decide. I would LOVE to have people come back and argue with me on these. I welcome opinions, and I truly hope someone will.

Snarky Gargoyle: This rating is just what you expect it to be. To get this rating, a cold, stony, grumpiness that is not particularly pleased with anything will have come over me when I read the book. Typically, I try to find the good in any book I read, and while books that get this rating probably have many redeeming qualities, the odds are I will have really had to struggle through. It may be a matter of opinion, but, well, I’m not going to pad it if I think this is what it deserves.

Caw-Caw Crow: Caw-Caw Crow only comes out when something really stinks (and yes, I giggled like a five-year-old when I thought the name up). I will really have to have been driven nuts by something to give it this bad a rating. For a nice guy like me to think something is so bad I can’t find anything good to say, or so little it almost doesn’t count, well, something’s probably gone pretty wrong.

So there you go. My five review ranks. I hope to have some fun with it, and I hope others will pipe in their two cents. So there you have it.

With that all said, my first review is up. It’s a great short work by Hugh Howey called Wool. Click over to the Book Reviews tab or go direct: You can see the review HERE.


  1. Starry

    I mostly agree with your post, except that getting reviews is hard. Getting 1-star reviews is easy! Getting intelligent, 4-star and 5-star reviews is hard.

    • John

      Well, I certainly don’t want any one-star reviews, but even to get those some review blogger or website would have had to agree to take a book. So, in my limited experience, even getting a serious, intelligent one star review is tough. Amazon is a horse of a different color. That’s the general populace and, well, you get what you get. Just have to cross your fingers and hope for mercy with that stuff.

  2. Faruk Nadkar

    Hi John

    I’m a SF writer myself. I’m about to put up part 1 (standalone of course) of my five part speculative fiction – a story based in the mid twenty second century – and well I was wondering if you take submissions of books for review. That’s all I wanted to know. Thanks.

    • John

      Hi Faruk. First, congrats on finishing your book. That’s awesome. Best of luck on it! And second, yes I do take, what I like to think of more as requests for review rather than submission. I buy everything I review (so I am a legit customer, and don’t feel obligated to be anything less than perfectly candid), so I don’t accept free stuff. I also turn down stuff that is either too much like other stuff I have on the list (so I can spread my reading around), or stuff that I just don’t think will be my cup of tea (why bother reading something I already know I probably won’t like, right?).

      That said, I am currently booked (oh, so punny) through January (which might even really mean March or April given that I’m releasing in November–hopefully–and the holidays will probably gum up my reading as well.

      • Faruk Nadkar

        Hi John

        Thanks for your kind words. I completely understand about your schedules.

        Well, its finally out. I thought I might share the link with you. When and if you do get to read it I’d like your opinion on it.

        The first part of my Temporal Series CONSPIRACY (Orphans of the VOID #1) is now online. Go to to download.

        Thanks & Enjoy.

        • John

          That’s awesome Faruk. Congratulations on getting it out and up, and I wish you all the best luck with it!

          • Faruk Nadkar

            Thanks John. Be connecting with you sometime. Have safe Holidays. A Merry Christmas & Happy New Year in advance.