Star Ratings and Book Reviews

Because of a response I received when I wrote a review on a book and gave a different “star rating” on Amazon than on Goodreads, I decided to do a little survey. Also, because a comment was made to me that “people only look at the stars”.

If you don’t know, the star ratings are different on Amazon than on Goodreads. Of course on both sites, a five-star rating means the reader thought the book was outstanding, fabulous, etc. However, on Amazon a 4-star rating means “I liked it”, whereas on Goodreads a 4-star rating means “I really liked it”. On Amazon a 3-star rating means “It’s okay”, whereas on Goodreads a 3-star rating means “I liked it”, and of course, on both Amazon and Goodreads 2 and 1-star ratings aren’t anything a writer really wants to see, nor will they encourage readers to read such a book.

My little survey consisted of three main questions, but based on the majority of the responses I received, I will be adding two more to this post. By the way, I posed my questions to three groups of readers and writers and received a total of 114 responses. However, if you add all of the responses listed below, you may or may not get a total of 114 because some responses didn’t really answer the questions or only answered one or two questions. Therefore, I am posting the responses that actually answered questions I posed.

Question: Do you only check the star ratings?

Yes — 10

No — 7

Several people said they check both the star ratings AND read reviews. I did not place these people’s answers in either of the specific questions.

Question: Do reviews mean more than stars when deciding to read or purchase a book?

Yes — 42

No — 1

Question: When writing a review, do you share your honest opinion?

Yes — 32

No one said they don’t share their honest opinion, but 13 people said if they can’t give at least a 3-star rating, they will not write a review.

However, 3 people said they would write an honest review even if they had to give less than a 3-star rating, but would be kind or would only share what the book is about.

There were 24 people who said they neither look at “star ratings” nor read reviews. They simply decide whether or not they want to read or purchase a book based on the back cover blurb.

I found this little survey a fun and interesting thing to do and I think it gave me a little insight into “star ratings” and reviews.

One person said, “Why wouldn’t someone write an honest review? The reviews are for the readers, not the writers.”

I found that comment extremely interesting, since so many writers place big importance upon reviews because good reviews can boost book sales. However, another thing quite a few people responded was that they only read books that have been recommended by friends or family members (ah yes, word of mouth — apparently still working today even with all of the technology).

Do you have an opinion? I’d love to hear your responses to these questions and this post. Feel free to leave a comment.

 

Horse Names, a Little Contest, and a Sneak Peek

Today I’m giving you a sneak peek into my WIP (work in progress). I am writing a historical romance story that takes place in the Old West, which of course, requires some research on my part.

Did you know that when cowboys went on a cattle drive they took a lot of extra horses along? They didn’t want to overtire the horses they rode when they often rode fourteen hours a day. Therefore the spare horses allowed them to change to fresh horses often.

Did you know the herd of extra horses was called the “remuda” which comes from a Spanish word “remonta” or “remount”. The remuda could be as large as 150 horses!

Did you know that it was generally the youngest cowboy in the group who was in charge of the remuda? Did you know that he was called the “Wrangler” which also comes from a Spanish word, “caballerango” or “one who cares for horses”?

Many cowboy terms came from the Spanish because the cowboy profession was started by the Spanish Vaqueros, Spanish and Native American Indians who were trained to watch over the cattle of Spanish missionaries.

The Wrangler’s job was not easy. He had to know each horse by name and was expected to know immediately if a horse was missing and to track it down.

Now that you have that information, a cattle drive takes place in my book and there will be a total of seventy-three horses in the remuda. Now, not all seventy-three horses’ names will appear in my book, but I did feel like I needed to name all seventy-three for my story information. I thought you might like to see the names I came up with, and no, they’re not necessarily original, and I’m sure you will recognize some of them from other literary works or movies — these will be some of the names that will not appear in my book. (Only a handful of the horses’ names will actually appear in my book.)

1.Sandy                   2. Pete                    3. Jack                    4. Janie                    5. Jax

6.Dusty                    7. Smokey             8. Goldie                9. Millie                 10. Paint

11.Lady                 12. Shadow           13. Cash                 14. Toby                  15. Misty

16.Lightning        17. Storm               18. Flash               19. Tillie                  20. Sal

21.Bonnet            22. Max                  23. Pumpkin         24. Tate                   25. Flapjack

26.Tramp            27. Jasper               28. Spade               29. Ruby                 30. Leo

31.Rusty              32. Sawdust           33. Dancer             34. Pearl                 35. Spirit

36.Rain                37. Phantom          38. Star                  39. Jupiter              40. Ebony

41.Windy            42. Scout                 43. Topper            44. Zeke                  45. Thunder

46.Midnight       47. Bessie                48. Drifter             49. Goblin              50. Ginger

51.Cinnamon     52. Lacey                53. Buster              54. Cloud                55. Hero

56.Legend           57. Lucky               58. Poncho             59. Chip                  60. Faith

61.Patches          62. Popcorn           63. Peace                64. Patience           65. Betsy

66.Skye                67. Ranger            68. Wildfire            69. Rebel                70. Willow

71.Sapphire       72. Biscuit             73. Daisy

Which of these is your favorite that you would like to see in my book?

Leave your answer in the comments by next Monday, March 5th at noon if you want your favorite horse name including in my story. The three names with the most votes will win and be included in my story and your name will appear in the acknowledgements for helping make the choices.

Disney and Literature

I’m sorry this post is a little late today, but I’m having trouble being able to make the time to write and schedule posts when I’m homeschooling a child, editing a manuscript, working on my own novel, taking care of our household, and rearranging and decluttering my office to also include a library, and now it’s November and the holidays are fast approaching.

Last Monday evening I attended a birthday party where we watched the birthday woman open gifts, then we all indulged in ice cream and watched a DVD–“Saving Mr. Banks”. I had never seen the movie before. If you are unfamiliar with it as well, I will simply say that it is a movie about how Walt Disney acquired the right to Mary Poppins, who was already a character in multiple stories written by P. L. Travers.

Since I am a writer, I found this story completely fascinating and engaging for several reasons and I was extremely interested in P. L. Travers. The movie also piqued my curiosity in many ways: 1) I now want to read the Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers because, even though I have never seen Disney’s “Mary Poppins”, I want to experience Mary Poppins as her creator intended her to be; 2) I was curious as to why Walt Disney, a talented cartoonist, would be so interested in obtaining the creations of other writers; and 3) I wanted to know how many Disney characters were based on literary characters.

So, I spent some time doing some research on the computer, and here is what I found: 1) Walt Disney had an early cartoon character he created, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, whose rights had been stolen from Walt Disney a few years after 1923. (This again made me wonder why, then, he would be so eager to obtain the rights to characters who were created by other writers). Not long after Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was stolen from Walt Disney, he, along with his brother Roy, their wives, and Ub Iwerks produced three cartoons featuring a new character Walt had been developing–Mickey Mouse. In 1929, Walt Disney created “Silly Symphonies”, which featured Mickey’s newly created friends: Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. 2) According to the research I did online, I found that Walt Disney Studios, which continues Walt’s legacy, created movies from more than 71 books that were written and created by other people, several of which were based on English Literary works and one French novel. Some of these were produced by Walt himself. Walt’s last major success that he produced himself was “Mary Poppins” in 1964. Walt died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966.

The most interesting thing I found was that P. L. Travers continued writing Mary Poppins stories even after Disney’s film, and in the late 1980s worked with a Disney screenwriter on a film sequel that never materialized.

What do I plan to do with my newfound information? Read the literary works written by others that Disney used to create movies because Disney also changed many things from the way the original creator created his or her work and I am interested in the original characters and their stories the way their creators meant them to be.

If you are interested in a list of the books many Disney movies are based on and any of the other websites I used for this post, here are the links: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/16838.Disney_movies_based_off_books, https://d23.com/disney-films-that-started-out-as-childrens-books/, https://www.biography.com/people/walt-disney-9275533, and http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/7-things-you-might-not-know-about-walt-disney

 

A Poem of Sorts

I’m not sure I can really call this a poem, but it just came together as I was doing some research on Disney characters, which will be explained further in my upcoming Monday post. Enjoy!

Famous Characters From Books
by Kelly F. Barr

Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Ariel,
Alice, Elsa and Olaf, Peter Pan;
What do these characters all have in common?
“Disney”, you say;
Yes, but they didn’t start there.
All of these characters were based on literature–
Many were classics.

Authors like P.L. Travers, A.A. Milne,
Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll, and James M. Barrie
Penned these original characters.
So if you want to really know these characters,
Take a look between the covers of these great books:
Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, The Little Mermaid,
Alice in Wonderland,
The Snow Queen, and the play, “Peter Pan”.

The Great Debate: Traditional vs. Indie (Self) Publishing

I’ve been back in the writing world for three years and seven months being part of a local writers’ group that meets monthly and has critique groups that I have participated in, and an annual writers’ conference. I’ve also attended two writers’ luncheons, put together my own little group of writers who meet weekly, and in the past two years have been involved in an online writers’ group as well as being involved in a critique group for the past two years that meets every other week. I have also been reading books on the writing craft.

During the past two years, I have been researching and exploring the publishing possibilities, and I have found, as the title of this post suggests, that there is a Great Debate among writers: to publish traditionally or indie (self) publishing.

I have found that many older people are quite adamant about traditional publishing but when asked why can’t really give me a satisfactory answer. I have also found that many writers who have already published books seem adamant about starting with a traditional published. However, I have also heard some of these already published writers talking about their desire to switch to indie publishing. (For the sake of simplicity in the rest of this blog post, I will only refer to traditional and “indie” publishing because, though “indie” and “self” publishing are quite similar, “indie” publishing is publishing completely on your own and most of these writers are determined to put out their best writing, whereas “self” publishing includes the writers who just want to put out their writing as quickly as possible and don’t spend enough time on edits, as well as those who publish through vanity publishers (these are publishers who allow you to keep all of your rights and maintain all decision making, but you pay them a fee to help you publish and do some marketing). “Indie” writers/publishers have a better reputation than “self” published writers.

I have found it quite confusing to speak with published writers about the publishing options because they stand firm in telling me that I should seek an agent and go the traditional publishing route first. But, when I ask why, they offer no real good, solid reasons.

I even know of a writer who insists on the traditional route, but after trying that route for a few years, and even gaining an agent, is preparing to self publish the book through a small publisher, which is what the agent found for this writer. To which my question is: will this writer still have to pay the agent for this?

Okay, so here’s what I have learned about traditional publishing: the first step is to acquire an agent who will most likely have you make lots of changes, and, possibly, rewrite your entire manuscript. Then the agent will help you find a possible publisher, who may require you to make more changes and, possibly, rewrite your entire manuscript yet again, and even change it for a different target audience, and then, that publisher may or may not actually publish your manuscript. The entire process can take two to four years for your manuscript to get published, maybe even longer, if ever. If you are blessed enough to get the manuscript published, first of all, it may not be the story you originally intended in the first place. Secondly, your agent and the publisher get a cut of your sales, and you will be extremely blessed to receive even 10% of your sales. Also, you will be required to do as much of your own marketing as possible, which used to be the traditional publisher’s job. Finally, if your first book is part of a series, depending on the sales of the first book, the rest of the series may never get published, and if it does, traditional publishers stop publishing and remove your book from the market after just four years.

Now, here’s what I’ve learned about indie publishing. Yes, you must do ALL of the work yourself. You write the manuscript, AND, if you’re devoted and committed to doing the absolute best work you can do, you will have it critiqued; you will make appropriate changes based on those critiques; you will self-edit and do several rewrites; you will hire a professional editor to give you feedback and then rewrite yet again; you will have beta readers (if you don’t know what beta readers are, read this post), then you may make changes again. Then you will finally publish it through an indie publishing venue like Amazon’s “Create Space” or “Book Baby” or one of the other indie publishing outlets. While you are still working on your manuscript, you may want to begin to think about building a group of followers who would be interested in reading your writing. A good way to do this is to start a blog and share things about your writing and about yourself, as well as becoming active in other social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, etc. When your book is published, it’s a good idea to do a Book Launch (next Monday’s post will be about Book Launches). You will also want to put the information out on your social media, do book signings and/or speaking engagements. Get creative about how and where you can promote your book, but don’t over-saturate your social media or you will turn people off because they will think the only reason you’re on social media is to promote yourself and your writing. Your readers want you to be real and to care about them.

Another thing I want to share with you here is some interesting information one of my writing friends recently shared with me on this subject:

One of my other writing friends has also been researching these options and questioning other writers about their opinions. She shared with me that she recently spoke with some writers who have had books published through traditional publishers and tell newbie writers that they should go the traditional publishing route. She began to ask them: “How did you find an agent or publisher?” She said that most of them said that they found their agent or publisher through a friend. What she realized is that all of these already published writers are telling newbie writers to go the traditional publishing route, but they aren’t offering to introduce you to an agent or publisher. They don’t even tell you that they found their agent or publisher through a friend unless you specifically ask that question. Her thought is “so these already published writers are telling all of us newbies to go the traditional route while they are trying the indie route, like they want us to try the traditional route while they flood the indie market with their works.”

I apologize for such a lengthy post, but I hope you have found it informative and that it gives you something to think about and consider in your own writing journey. If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer or point you to where you can find the answer.

Writing Flash Fiction

I hope many of you will or have checked out last Friday’s Flash Fiction story here on my blog. Writing flash fiction helps to strengthen a writer because you have to be able to tell a story in as few words as possible, so it helps writers learn how to really tighten their writing. Writing flash fiction also allows writers to explore other genres. All writers tend to write one or two genres of long fiction, but often wonder what it would be like to write a different genre, or just want to play in another genre, and flash fiction is the perfect outlet for that.

I’ve been writing the Flash Fiction Friday posts for almost a year now, and in all honesty, I have been disappointed that more people haven’t “liked” or “commented” on my flash fiction posts. As a writer, I really want to engage my readers, and I really want to know what you like and/or don’t like because that also helps me be able to improve my writing.

When I first began writing my Flash Fiction Friday posts, I did so because I saw them on Melanie Noell Bernard’s blog (she doesn’t do them anymore), and decided I wanted to try writing flash fiction too. I even left some comments on her flash fiction blog posts to which she responded to encourage me and offer me some tips. She, however, liked to leave her endings open, allowing readers to use their own imaginations to finish the story, which I thought was kind of cool.

However, friends and family, who have read my flash fiction posts and spoken to me about them face-to-face, have expressed dissatisfaction with incomplete endings. Then I began to run out of ideas for flash fiction posts as well. So, I did a little online research about flash fiction, and what I have read is that the actual rules of flash fiction say that flash fiction is to be a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end.

I’ve also been reading a friend’s blog, who has been writing flash fiction posts all centered around an interesting character she has created. Each flash fiction post is, indeed, a story in itself, but continues to follow the lives of this one character and his coworkers, and often, new, minor characters are introduced in one particular story.

Therefore, after studying more about flash fiction, I decided to try to try writing flash fiction that follows the rules, but I struggled for ideas, and I thought that if I could come up with an interesting character, like the friend mentioned above, that I could write flash fiction stories about, I might be able to come up with some good, fresh material. I continued to think about it, and I suddenly got an idea.

So, I have created a character who had her first adventure last Friday, and each week, she will have a new adventure. I hope you will read about Amelia Merchant and her adventures and don’t be afraid to leave comments telling me your thoughts. I welcome them!

Faeries/Fairies — Good or Bad

Last Thursday I got into a discussion about faeries with a writing friend.  I have always envisioned faeries as good, kind and friendly.  My friend, however, said that they were written about in Literature, in Victorian times, as good, kind and friendly, but that originally they were mean, ugly and evil.

That piece of information disturbed me because I have an idea for some short fiction pieces that involve a good, kind, friendly fairy.  My friend said that I could still create a fairy like that if I wanted to.

So last night I did a little research, for about two-and-a-half hours, and visited six different websites with information about the history of faeries/fairies.

Let’s start with the spelling —  faerie is the original spelling which derived from “Fe erie”, meaning the enchantment of the Fees, while Fe is derived from Fay, which is itself derived from Fatae, or the Fates.

The modern term “fairy” is linked to fairy tales, which in their modern form have little to do with actual faeries.

For the rest of this post, I will use the modern, more common spelling “fairy”.

Fairies are mythical creatures.  The myths began in Europe and eventually made their way to the United States and other countries.

According to the myths, not all fairies are bad, nor are all fairies good.  A common belief is that fairies are fallen angels who are not good enough for heaven nor bad enough for Hell.

Some of the myths talk about good, helpful fairies who interact with humans and help them around the house with things like sweeping and making bread rise.  It is said that they do not want humans to thank them and that they can be temperamental.  That is why people refer to them as “the little folk”, “the fair folk”, “the good neighbors”, etc.  People called them these things in order to avoid attracting their attention and to avoid insulting them.

There are two types of fairies — The Trooping Fairies and the Solitary Fairies.  The Trooping Fairies are the ones who don’t mind associating with humans a bit.  The Solitary Fairies prefer to be left alone.

All fairies have the power to bestow continual good fortune or continual bad luck upon humans, which is why humans try to avoid attracting their attention or insulting them.

To summarize, in all that I have read, there is information to support that there are both good and bad fairies.

Finally, since fairies are fictional characters, and I am a fiction writer, and since there is information to support both good and bad fairies, I feel quite comfortable writing some short fiction that includes at least one good fairy.  (You may even see some of my short fiction with the good fairy right here on this blog.)

*Note:  The information in Italics was taken from http://www.medbherenn.com/faerie-lore.html, one of the websites I visited during my research.