Monday, December 31, 2007

G.R. Grove; Storyteller

G.R. Grove’s book “Storyteller” is sort of difficult to categorize. It’s historical fiction, but a sort of whimsical fiction which is told in the tradition of the Canterbury tales. The book is a collection of individual tales, wound by the bard Gwernin. As he travels about telling his stories chapter by chapter, the wider story is revealed of his travels around Wales during the middle ages. You are introduced to an evolving, colourful cast of characters that Gwernin meets along the way, as well as those who accompany him on various adventures. As they travel, the reader hears stories of legendary England, including tales of King Arthur. You follow Gwernin through various life-experiences, and even as he falls in love.

I sort of expected this book to be much like the required reading of my High School AP English class; a chore to read and hard to retain. However it was not. It was a pleasure to read this book. Storyteller is an extremely friendly read, with a well-researched foundation, and a light-hearted tone. There is no doubt of the author’s knowledge and expertise on the historical material in this book; however it is not presented in a burdensome or pretentious manner.

I confess that this style of book would not normally attract me as a reader. I tend to shy away from historical fiction. I find that more often than not, this genre is simply written as a means for an erudite author to show off his/her knowledge of historical subject matter, and the story, no matter how good, can be completely obliterated by the profusion of archaic terms and facts. Storyteller has shown me that this isn’t always the case, and that sometimes a good book is just a good book. G. R. Grove is clearly an excellent writer. I can’t find anything to criticize about the author’s style or voice. The first paragraph will snag you and you will be engaged throughout. Then you will be dropped off at the last paragraph wanting more. Luckily, the author has provided us with a sequel, which I will be reviewing soon.

I have been given no choice but to give “Storyteller” a full five medallions. It is not run-of-the-mill work by any means. It isn’t what I normally read, but it has me looking forward to the next installment. I recommend this book to anyone who just loves a good story; for there are plenty of those to be had in “Storyteller.”

Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: (January 3, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143030524X
ISBN-13: 978-1430305248

Friday, November 16, 2007

Your Promotional Copy

Reading some of the descriptions sent to us for review submissions, I’ve realized how important it is to have good promotional copy on your work. Let’s face it; it’s probably harder to summarize your book in two paragraphs, make it engaging and bold, than it was to write your book. It's not easy to grab your reader.

The problem is, that aside from your book cover art; your promo description is probably the thing that’s going to make or break the sale of your book. The cover catches the eye, it makes the buyer pick up your book, and flip it over. Those buyers will have to like what they read to make them take the next step(s); which can be 1) to open the book up to the first page to read the first paragraph or two; 2) to flip to the last page and read the last paragraph or two; or 3) to carry that book up to the cashier and buy it. Of course, that process might be slightly different on Amazon, but you get my point.

When you are writing the copy for our book jacket description; there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Don’t go into the description as if the reader knows what’s going on and inundate your reader with too much unnecessary information. Here’s an example of this:
Reeta is a Princess who falls in love with a peasant. His name is Fralik. He is an orphan who was raised on a farm by an old peasant farmer named Olik in a tiny village called Arrine. Fralik knows nothing about his past; or who his parents are. Reeta and Fralik know their love is doomed if they stay in Jakreth. They decide to run away; but Reeta’s father Askelor, King of Jakreth, is infuriated; and he sends Kotrioth out after them. Kotrioth is a ruthless killer. Askelor wants Fralik dead so Reeta can return home and so her title and her birthright remains untarnished. But the killer Kotrioth is in for a surprise. Fralik is a Dathrekoor… a person in possession of tremendous powers. And Fralik is in for a surprise too, because he doesn’t know he’s a Dathrekoor either. Can Fralik learn to use his power to protect himself and Reeta?
You can’t summarize the plot and identify and describe everyone in the book too. It can’t just be a play-by play description of the plot leaving the end out. You should inspire questions in the reader’s mind. Take the above example, and here it is redone:

Reeta’s gone and done it this time. She’s run away with a peasant boy; and she is the daughter of a powerful King. Determined to protect his daughter from shame and misfortune and to keep her title intact, King Askelor dispatches an unrelenting hunter after the couple; aiming to eliminate the boy who has ruined everything.

Fralik loves Reeta. A questionable past and a magical power he doesn’t even know he has are all that he can offer her. Fralik understands what Reeta has given up to be with him; and he knows he has endangered himself because of this decision; he has no idea how direly in danger they both are. With an unremitting killer at their heels and a mystical power Fralik knows nothing about, can the young lovers prevail?
If you are not sure about how to do this; try these tips:

  • Do some research. Go to your bookstore, find shelf that sells your genre, and read copy from other books. This copy you read is likely written by the marketing department as much as it was by anyone else. You can take a lot from seeing how it's done. Think of it from a marketing perspective. What is it that makes your book sales worthy? What sells other books and movies?
  • Keep it brief and simple. The more elaborate and involved, the less appealing it will be.
  • Have some of your friends and family read the manuscript and write down the things that really resonated with them. Use what they wrote as a backbone for your copy. Other readers may take away something completely different than you would as the writer.
  • Don’t pepper the copy with character names and places; it can be confusing. Use them minimally.
  • Use a casual voice; one that relates to your reader and is easy to read.
  • Only brush on the main story-- focus on a gripping side-story; let your reader be surprised.
  • Proofread it, have it edited, clean it up; it is the first impression someone will get of your writing. If it’s full of flaws, they’ll assume your book is.
  • Be sure to add something about yourself so readers can identify with the author.
  • Be objective about how you look at your work. Look at it with a practical eye and figure out what sets your book apart from others. Use that.

Monday, October 29, 2007

On temporary Haitus


I have sixteen seventeen pending query emails that I have yet to respond to; sorry guys, I'm truly working on it.

However, my parental unit has fallen gravely ill again; and I've got to make arrangements for a developmentally disabled sibling. I'll be back reading as soon as humanly possible, but it wont' be immediate.

[Update] I'm back reading; sorry for the delay. I'm working on a set; and Robert is reading two as well. Aside from parental issues, I've also had a large event to worry about and attend and now things have calmed down sufficiently that I can look at books again... As for all of you awaiting a response on your query; please be patient, I have four more books to burn through before I request more.

I will however make this statement; a number of the review requests are ... uh ... questionable to say the least. It's unlikely I'll consider reviewing a book by someone who cannot follow the simple guidelines for submission; and please make your description more than just a few words. You are in essence selling a book to us; just as you would your readers. We currently have seventeen queries to choose from; so you really need to make yours stand out! :)


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Henry Baum; North of Sunset

North of Sunset is one of those books that sort of creeps up on you. You’re reading along, and suddenly you realize that you are reading something amazingly well written. I really enjoy being wowed by a self-published book. It doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, I want to make sure every book I come across that’s of excellent quality gets the credit it deserves.

Michael Sennet is a world famous Hollywood actor. Gifted and gorgeous, women swoon over him, people automatically respect him; and he floats through his world as if everything orbits around him; and to some degree, it does. He’s used to getting his way, so much so he is bored by it; Michael is not emotionally equipped to deal with anything disrupting his universe, with anyone telling him ‘no’. Two significant things happen to Michael… two things that come out of line with his universe; two things that bring Michael to cross paths with a cold-blooded killer, but only after becoming one himself.

Curt is the “Vanity Plate Killer”. His M.O. is to go after people with vanity license plates. He has is own motivations, his own ideas. Curt is writing a book about his exploits. He’s proud of his accomplishments. And then he discovers that someone is copycatting his killings. Michael and Curt are two characters from opposite, but oddly similar, pitiless worlds; both vain and superior, both essentially the same.

The characters of North of Sunset are extremely well portrayed; from Michael’s quiet slip into insanity—his foibles and his flaws, to the studies of his wife Cheryl and her selfish blindness, to the careful descriptions of the other broken souls that populate Michael’s unforgiving universe. There are no random, unmotivated actions in this book. There is a depth to each character; a believability that is rarely found in any writing these days.

Truth be told, this is quality writing. This is an experienced author, who knows his stuff; understands how to present a book, and does so professionally and with significant skill. I think you should go out and buy this book and read it. It is extremely good.

Five Medallions, hands-down.

Author: Henry Baum

Publisher: (February 23, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1411656563
ISBN-13: 978-1411656567

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Erik Hare; Downriver

Popey is a Hopneg. A Hopneg, in the book Downriver by Eric Hare, is a small gnome. Popey has been rudely awakened by the powerful influence the Giants (we humans) have on his world and over the welfare of his people. We ‘Giants’ keep spreading out, and the Hopnegs have to keep moving… Popey wants to find a way to fight the giants so his people are not consistently at their mercy; but his people are resigned to the traditions, and follow the ways they’ve always followed ~ subject to ancient rules imposed upon them by their ‘book’.

Popey defies this paradigm of tradition imposed by the ‘book’; he feels it necessary to expand his horizons, and to find ways to help his people by exploring the world beyond his own. So he sets out to find a way to fight the blundering Giants, who uproot his people again and again.

He finds a wise traveling companion on his journey, Shajee. Shajee has a myriad of lessons to teach Popey; helping him to better understand the Giants and their world, teaching him about his journey and ultimately to better understand himself.

Downriver is a less a young person’s fantasy as it is a book of life-lessons. It doesn’t preach, the lessons it provides are subtle and wise; and it applies to a broad audience of young people.

It took a while for me to get into the flow of the book, and it is not because of the writing. The writing was quite good. The problem was the formatting. This is a perfect example of how a good book can be brought down by questionable formatting and a lack of editing. I very nearly put the book down—but I did not. Why? Because ultimately, the story carried itself.

Given a thorough editing, and having the book reformatted, this book would be more than exceptional for its category. It’s a heartwarming, whimsical, but true-to-life fantasy. It takes a setting and characters that are charming and sweet; and then blends in the realities of life that we are faced with; from our most basic priorities, our decision-making, to taking responsibility for our choices.

I give Downriver 4 medallions.

Author: Erik Hare

Publisher: AuthorHouse (October 10, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1420887165
ISBN-13: 978-1420887167

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ten Questions for a Cover Designer

Odyssey Reviews caught up with cover designer Cathi Stevenson and we lobbed our ten questions at her:

Odyssey Reviews: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background, and what compelled you to become a book cover designer?
I've always been interested in design and advertising and it seemed no matter what careers I embarked upon, I always ended up back in this industry.

Odyssey Reviews: What genre of book do you enjoy designing for most?
I like non-fiction because I like the structure that is usually involved in the design of non-fiction, although it competes with my love of grunge, that I rarely get to do.

Odyssey Reviews: What are, in your opinion, the most important qualities for a great book cover?
There are just so many things that can contribute to a good, strong design and it's not always possible to employ every one on the same cover. Ultimately, it's what works for the market. While a brooding, artistic painting might get rave reviews and be the perfect design choice for one book, the same design could hurt the sales of the book beside it. Sometimes, just a plain cover with the title grabbing the browser's eye is the recipe for success. It depends on the market and on the book. It's often a balance, but the main thing is that the cover looks professional. Nothing will do more harm to a publisher's image than something that looks like it should be on the front of a fourth-grader's history project.

A good case study in this is with The Little Book That Beats the Market (Wiley, 2005). It wasn't doing very well at all until they redesigned the cover and coordinated it with their marketing efforts. After the redesign, the book became a hit and much of the credit has been given to the new look.

Odyssey Reviews: In your opinion, what are the worst mistakes an author can make in designing his or her book?
Using clip-art, or 3d images in the wrong way; unprofessional fonts; layouts that don't work and colors that cause "visual vibration," making it impossible to look at the book for more than a second or two. And clichés! I'd like to start a petition to encourage self-publishers not to use any more handshakes, keys, chess pieces or puzzle pieces on their book covers. They were fine a few years ago, but the market is flooded with them, now. Unless of course the designer can come up with a fresh approach to using them.

Odyssey Reviews: How do you come up with a cover concept?
It's usually a collaborative effort between myself and the publisher. I read the book's synopsis, we discuss the target audience and I often spend hours studying book covers in bookstores and online.

Odyssey Reviews: What is the weirdest book cover you’ve done?
I didn't do it, but one guy wanted me to create a cover with no title or author name.

Odyssey Reviews: What is the best way for an author to choose a cover artist?
Take a look at the designer's samples. With digital technology where it's at today, usually an online portfolio or website is adequate. And study what's in the marketplace for your particular genre so you know what you're looking for in terms of design.

Odyssey Reviews: Hiring a cover artist can be an investment. What tips do you have for authors to keep the cost manageable?
Some designers charge a flat rate, so that's something to look for, but the number one thing that causes projects to go over budget and take longer than they should is disorganizing. Get your ducks in a row before you get the designer to begin working on the project. It might seem easy to change a title, add a quote, make editing changes after layout, create new barcodes or adjust a spine, but it's time consuming and most designers will charge you for these things. Not to mention the fact that it could cause you to miss deadlines, and add a lot of unnecessary stress on everyone.

Odyssey Reviews: What are the three most common problems you see in other book designs?
Mostly amateur issues. People not kerning the titles (kerning is the spacing between the letters). Sometimes you'll see the letter W or Y and it looks like it belongs to a different word it's so far from the next letter.

Too many fonts or badly chosen fonts. Stick with one or two font families for the entire project. If you study books produced by the larger publishing houses you'll see they rarely break this rule.

Poser. I'm sorry, but unless the Poser elements are taken into another program such as PhotoShop and given a new life, Poser characters should stay in the gaming world, unless your book is a gaming book for teens.

Odyssey Reviews: Do you have any other special tips, anecdotes or advice for first time authors?
Keep an open mind and study book covers before you begin. With the Internet you can find covers designed back in the 1800s right up to ones not even released yet. Look at hundreds of them. Visit the sites of Random House and Time Warner Books and Simon and Schuster and all the bigger companies and then check the New York Time's best sellers' lists for the past few years. Get a feel for what the public is buying. Take the job of project manager seriously, because essentially, that's what a self-publishing author is.

Cathi Stevenson is from You can find samples of her work there. Thanks Cathi, those are great answers!

Author Notice

Odyssey Reviews is not a service to provide positive blurbs for the back of a book cover.

Odyssey Reviews is a review service for the people who buy self-published books.

Self-published books are significantly costlier than traditionally published books. We, as authors, have an obligation to our buyers and readers to make sure that what we are asking them to pay more money for is worth it. It is unprofessional and even an insult to expect a reader to pay good money for something that isn't up to par. There are a lot of bad books out there, and the Odyssey Reviewers are here to sift through them and review them for exactly what they are. If your book is good, it will stand up for itself, if it has flaws, we will point them out. We don't sugarcoat it, unless there is a good reason to.

If you are unhappy with your review, then we will keep it here on the site alone. We will most certainly not retract an honest review.. We only post on Amazon or other booksellers upon request of the author or if they are 5-medallion books. As of today, we will no longer edit our reviews once they've been posted. Our reviews are based on what we read, nothing more. We react to the book as any reader might. So, please keep that in mind before you submit. If you are seeking only raving reviews, you need to be sure that your book merits them; especially when submitting to Odyssey Reviews, because you can expect only honesty from us.

We don't ask for money for our reviews. We hold all authors to the same standards; and we all have similar expectations when we accept a book for review; 1) some effort to edit and prepare the work for general distribution; 2) a cohesive, decently written story; 3) a professional package (cover, content, etc). These are not unrealistic expectations; they are the same expectations any reader would have when they're looking for a book to buy. Those are the basic things any author should strive for.

An author should understand that submitting their work for review anywhere may expose their work to reactions that they may not expect. Getting negative reviews and comments is part and parcel of the publishing world. You either have to learn to take the criticism and grow from it as an author, or perhaps rethink exposing any more of your work in the public eye.

Thank you.

Monday, October 1, 2007

D.A. Welch; Flashback: A Low Country Novel

In D.A. Welch’s Flashback: A Low Country Novel, Navy SEAL Nate Dunlevy comes home to South Carolina a tormented man; suffering from vivid flashbacks of a traumatic event during the war. He meets Eve and falls in love, however Eve comes with a troubled background as well; namely an obsessive religious fanatic ex-boyfriend who seems hell-bent on objectifying and hurting her. Nate’s desire to protect his lady from this misguided, dangerous man leads him into a hornet’s nest; a religious extremist group that has hate-listed Nate, and the three other people who’ve become embroiled in the consequences of Eve’s bad judgment.

In truth, this is a romance novel. Instead of the existing attractive photo on the cover, it could have done just as well with the well-known image of the shirtless man embracing a swooning woman with a heaving bosom. It fits right into the formula of a romance novel; flawless beautiful people who come together (figuratively, literally and always simultaneously) with the pat set of challenges that keep them just slightly apart enough to keep the reader turning the page. The side-story of the militant, questionably motivated killer religious group was entertaining, it did help pad out the expected romantic dance between the four main characters, and provide a platform for Nate’s stealthy skills.

Nate is the Sensitive SEAL, the specimen of a perfect man, chiseled, beautiful, and tormented. All of the characters are torn from the pages of magazines, dressed in fashionable clothes, plopped into trendy homes and careers, conveniently blessed with the requisite issues to hinder them just that little bit. --this portion removed per author's preferences--

As for flashbacks; this book has little to do with them. In fact, as far as Nate’s trauma and personal torment go; there is little follow-up besides a couple of physical episodes and some therapy sessions that focus more on Nate’s sexual issues [edit] than dealing with the flashbacks themselves.

It’s not that this book isn’t enjoyable. Flashback: a Low Country Novel is an easy, rainy-weekend read. It is well written, decently edited, with some stunning visuals of the low country topping each new chapter. The problem is that it was never quite believable, and as a reader, I could never quite feel fully absorbed into the story. Being someone who doesn’t care for this genre of book, I feel like I would be wrong to give it the 3.5 medallions I’d like to give it. So I give the book 4 medallions for all those romance-book addicts out there.

Author: D.A. Welch
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (April 25, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0595412718

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Author Notice

Yes, I *am* still alive and kicking. Unfortunately I'm down to just ME for reviewers. My sister just called in "Not Interested" because of the issues affecting our family right now, and my other reviewer Kris has been overwhelmed with work. So I've now taken on a new reviewer, my friend Robert, who is about to receive a couple of thick, backlogged books, and hopefully we'll get the momentum going again.

I apologize for the delay, I am working through the stack as best I can considering the time constraints. I will resume submissions when I am through this pile of books, I promise. A number of you have yet to get a response from me at all, but please know I am not ignoring you out of cruelty; it's out of necessity. :)

Odyssey Reviews is still reviewing; albeit slowly.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Michelle LeBlanc; Belt Buckles & Pajamas

In the book Belt Buckles & Pajamas, you are introduced to the main character Daphne and you learn very quickly where she is and why she is there. Daphne’s universe is a mental institution. Daphne’s friends and fellow patients orbit around her—each one with their own demons and inner-turmoil haunting them. Their universe is disrupted by the arrival of a new Therapist. Andie is a stark contrast to her stoic and regimented predecessor, Martin, and she has a way of reaching these lost, harrowed souls that he never had.

There are the archetypes one expects in an institution like this; the sex-addict, the paranoid, the nearly catatonic, the one who sees invisible things; telling from the title; one can easily surmise Daphne’s issues. The author touches on this sensitive issue with finesse, while exploring the madness of the others with a humorous eye.

You begin to discover the depth of Daphne’s pain, and the events that brought it to her. As you read, you watch her; under Andie’s careful guidance begin the process of healing and coming to terms with her past. Daphne’s growing self-acceptance alters her perspective about her universe; including the people who surround her.

Belt Buckles & Pajamas in my eyes is the beginning of an insightful book. The first draft which needs to be fleshed out into something greater. I was a bit put off by the pat characters; the seemingly stereotypical nature of each patient. They seemed sometimes only two-dimensional and lacked depth to be truly believable. I feel like not enough time was spent further exploring Daphne’s healing process, and that it was too easily resolved.

It is still a good read; and easy one as well; no flourish or wordiness complicates the book; it still communicates volumes in far too few pages. I give this book 3.5 medallions.

Author: Michelle LeBlanc
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Kanapolis Fog Publishing Emporium (May 31, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN: 0615147143

Thursday, September 13, 2007

An Invitation and a Heads-up.

Greetings readers/writers/reviewers.

I wanted to drop a quick note to reassure everyone that we are indeed still at it here at Odyssey Reviews. One of our reviewers is down for the count, and we siblings have been preoccupied with some private family matters that have just begun to settle down, so we will be reading furiously to catch up. We ask the submitting authors who haven't received any reply from us to allow us some more patience at this time--we have been waylaid by at least a week and a half by impromptu flights across the country.

In the meantime, I've set up a "Reviewer Ring' (see below) and I invite my fellow review sites to please submit their site(s) to the ring. I've spent some time following the footsteps of some of our authors, and direct-linked some of the review sites I found on my hunt, but I would like to see those in the web-ring as well. It will help the authors to find us better.

A new review is coming soon; maybe two plus an interview with a book-cover designer. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Note to Submitting Authors

Odyssey Reviews is not going to be accepting further submissions until we have worked through the majority of our current pending reviews. You may submit your work to our site following the usual guidelines, however you will not receive an answer for up to a week or more. If you have any questions, feel free to submit those to our submission email, and those we can answer immediately.

Thank you for your patience.

John Lawson; "Witch Ember"

Author John Lawson brings us “Witch Ember”; a gritty, dark fantasy set in a creatively crafted world where people are born with tiny shards or ‘embers’ which lend them magical powers. Esmeree, the primary character is born with a large piece of this ember, and unknowingly possesses tremendous powers; however she is also unfortunately an orphaned child of ‘the Mill’ where she grows up knowing only the horrors of prostitution, drugs and violence. Her role models are an assortment of unsavory adults, with only one or two creditable souls to help her survive. She is also surrounded by a collection of youths who are also part of this dismal, dirty world. Her greatest aspiration is to become a more refined, personal prostitute/concubine for the city’s richest; it is her sheltered view of the world and her ignorance of her own power and potential that makes her ambition so limited. You watch her grow, and with it, her world as well. It starts focused on the mill and its scurrying, grimy inhabitants and broadens slowly as the story goes along. You learn as Esmeree learns.

You will find that Esmeree is a plucky character, and she successfully carries the reader through this very thick novel as she overcomes each terrible experience, and slowly begins to discover who she is, where she must go, and the extent of her ‘ember’s power’. She is thoroughly likable, and despite how casually she perceives the trauma of her daily life, she has an honourable sort of soul, and she makes others around her better as well.

The author did a commendable job showing Esmeree's personal growth, and wrote a believable world imbued with the same political and faith-based upheavals as our own. The detail in this book is broad and you can get lost in it occasionally. It is a dark, coarse sort of book, I will not fail to mention that. The sexual content is explicit and without sugar-coating, and the violence is graphic and vivid. Those of you that are squeamish may not care for the content of Witch Ember.

As a reviewer, I do have some criticisms of this unusually tidy, well-put together novel. The author obviously enjoyed interspersing his many invented words into the book. He definitely took his time to create a world complete with its own dialects and slang. You can’t miss these words; they are all italicized and infused with a přöfůsĭŏn of šỳmboŀś to make them appear exotic. Frankly, as a reader, all it did was make it distracting. This was really unnecessary and it does nothing for the flow of the book when you constantly have to stop, flip through the index, find the word and its meaning, and then find where you left off. And doing it again and again (for it is a sizable index) really just made me want to put the book down and go read something less arduous, like War and Peace. It nearly ruined the book for me, and that is a lot considering that this is a really good book. I think the language was overdone, and unnecessary for a story that can carry itself perfectly well without it.

This is definitely the neat, seamless work of a technical writer. I usually tend to look for errors and such when reading, as do the other reviewers here at Odyssey, and despite the symbols and the distracting language, I could find little to pick apart when it came to the quality of the writing, the cleanliness of the manuscript, and the author’s ability to keep you riveted even through the slow bits and the index references.

I have to give Witch Ember five medallions. ONLY because I think it’s a notable work of self-published writing, BUT if I were feeling less generous, I’d take a half or whole medallion away just for the time I had to spend looking up words.

Paperback: 489 pages
Publisher: PublishAmerica (May 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1591290384
ISBN-13: 978-1591290384

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ten Questions for an Editor:

Odyssey Reviews caught up with editor William Greenleaf. We asked him ten questions:

Odyssey Reviews: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background, and what compelled you to become an editor.
William: My career as an editor evolved from my career as a novelist. My first novel was published in 1980. When I started writing full time in 1987, I also began helping other writers through workshops. I discovered that I loved helping new writers break into print. I can think of nothing in life more satisfying than helping another writer bring out the best in his or her manuscript.

Odyssey Reviews: What type of book do you enjoy working with most?
William: I work primarily with novels (all genres) and story-oriented nonfiction such as memoirs and autobiographies.

Odyssey Reviews: What are the most common mistakes you find in the manuscripts you edit?
William: Many newer writers fail to employ writing techniques that pull the reader into the story and maintain a sense of anticipation. If the reader doesn’t care what happens next, he or she won’t keep turning pages. So I would have to say that the most common problem is lack of sufficient development in the central conflict. Viewpoint errors are also very common. Newer writers will be more successful at writing vivid, compelling scenes if they stick to the viewpoint of one character through each scene. When it comes to mechanics (grammar, punctuation, etc.), the most common error is in paragraph structure. Paragraph breaks can become dramatic spotlights when handled correctly. A good editor can often turn a confusing manuscript into a gripping story simply by combining and splitting paragraphs at the right points. Of course, a good editor must also fix other common mechanical problems such as misplaced commas, capitalization errors, and the overuse of passive voice.

Odyssey Reviews: In your opinion, what are the worst mistakes an author can make with a manuscript?
William: The worst mistakes are: 1) failing to spend enough time with the manuscript to make it as good as it can be, and 2) sending it to the publisher before it’s ready. If your story deserves to be told, it deserves to be told well so it will hold the reader’s interest from first page to last.

Odyssey Reviews: In your opinion, what are the most important qualities of a good, marketable manuscript?
William: It must appeal to a wide audience of readers, it must respect the reader’s intelligence by living up to the promises made in the cover blurbs, and it must build and maintain a sense of anticipation in the reader.

Odyssey Reviews: What is the oddest editing experience you’ve ever had?
William: I was once given the task of turning an academic treatise on chaos theory into a romance novel. It turned out to be easier than it sounds, and it launched my client’s novel writing career, which is still going strong.

Odyssey Reviews: What is the best way for an author to choose an editor?
William: Find an editor who has genuine credentials such as verifiable writing success and membership in professional organizations like the Authors Guild. Have a heart-to-heart talk with the editor and make sure he or she has a real interest in your book and feels positive about it. Make sure your editor is easily reachable via email and telephone.

Odyssey Reviews: Having a manuscript edited can be an expensive endeavor for some authors. Do you have any advice for authors on how to keep the cost down?
William: First of all, don’t spend money for something you don’t need. If you’ve decided to use a specific editor, look closely at the various literary services offered by the editor. After the editor has read your manuscript, ask for his or her advice about which services would be of most benefit for you. When I evaluate a manuscript, one of my goals is to determine how I can be of most help to my client. If the client is on a limited budget, then my decision becomes: How can I best serve this author within that budget?

If you can’t afford to hire a professional editor, take stock of your circle of friends and family members. Getting feedback from several avid readers can help, though it’s often difficult for friends and relatives to be objective. You may want to consider checking with your local college or university. Graduate students often moonlight as editors. If you do this, don’t assume that the person is qualified just because he or she is a graduate student in English or literature. Ask to see samples of the editor’s work. If you’ve written a novel, don’t hire someone who hasn’t had experience with novels. If you’ve written your memoirs, make sure the editor has experience with memoirs or autobiographies. In other words, no matter how much you spend, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Odyssey Reviews: What are the three most misused words you've noticed in your editing work?
William: Alright (not yet accepted, should be all right), misusing to and too, and misusing there and their.

Odyssey Reviews: Do you have any other special tips, anecdotes or advice for first time authors?
William: Take time to learn about the book publishing business. If you decide to self-publish your book, consider your options. Should you go with a print-on-demand publisher, or a traditional publisher? Will you retain the rights to your book? Be aware that printing your book is the easy part; selling it is quite another matter. What will the publisher do to promote your book? Does the publisher have a solid (and verifiable) track record for book sales? Take time to educate yourself before you sign on the dotted line.

Thank you Mr. Greenleaf; your insights are extremely valuable.

Here is William's website:
Greenleaf Literary Services:
Contact information:
William Greenleaf
2717 La Luz Circle NE
Rio Rancho, NM 87144

Phone: 505-796-6895


Our next interview: A book cover designer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Keith Rowley; "The Aquarius Key"

Sue and Bill Williams live normal contented lives: Sue is a handsome woman in love with her husband, and Bill, a successful, hard-driving businessman. In the blink of an eye, everything changes. They are thrown into a reality where they come face-to-face with true evil. People they’ve known and trusted for years suddenly become their greatest peril—and neither of them would have ever guessed that they would play an integral role in bringing evil into their world. Bill not only discovers that an occult group is responsible for this madness, but that his brother Peter is part of it all.

I never give the 5-medallion rating easily; however every blue moon you come across a book that just knocks your socks off for the quality of writing and the complexity and magnetism of the story. I’ve stumbled onto one right here. The Aquarius Key is in my opinion, the technical standard to which all self-published authors should aspire. The writing is clean and as sharp as a blade and the story tight and cohesive, with that incredible pull that makes you wish your day would go faster so you can go home and read it some more.

There are some scenes of a violent sexual nature in this book, as well as other themes that are appropriate for adult readers only. This book touches on the darker nature of the occult and esoteric practices that may not be palatable to certain people. I will openly admit that many parts of this book just screeched right over the top of my head; I claim no great knowledge of the esoteric practices, nor do I pretend to understand it all in great depth; however the well-researched glimpses Mr. Rowley paints of the ceremonies and teachings of Kabbalah and magic were vivid and enlightening. He showed with credibility what a fine line it can be between good and evil, using fiction, history, science and fact in a graceful dance of words.

Keith Rowley introduces the reader to the dark history of Aleister Crowley, to the Thelemic texts, and to the darker side of the practices. He follows the spiritual schooling of a young Peter throughout the book, giving his reader a cursory edification into the practices of magic. It was fascinating but the flow of information was a bit overwhelming at times, which is the only criticism I have of this book.

I give The Aquarius Key five medallions. It is an excellent read; and I recommend it to anyone who likes an intelligently presented novel and a thrilling, hair-raising story.

Author: Keith Rowley
Genre: Fiction/Occult
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (August 24, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN: 0595393732

Thursday, August 16, 2007

To Edit or Not To Edit?

Okay; so it costs money. As my father said; you have to spend money to make money. And if you want your book to sell, or be noticed, or to have some credibility, it needs to be a clean manuscript. Period. That’s a hard truth, and it’s probably why many, many authors get their manuscripts and query packages hucked into the slush pile.

But editors are expensive you say. Yes they are. And they are not foolproof. I personally had my book edited, and I still found little things here and there after publication. It happens—even with the best books. You also need to keep in mind that when you work on Word, with auto-formatting, that when iUniverse, or whatever other self-publishing company takes your work, and drops it into their page setting software, that those little auto formatting doodads will vanish, and leave some sentences with no period at the end, and various other little quirks. Those are excusable and easily preventable.

BUT, I digress; editing is really a necessary evil. Some publishers are willing to take on that cost, but us wee little self-published folks cannot always afford the expense. However, it can never hurt to find out how much it could cost you. Maybe it is affordable; you just haven’t found the right editor. Allow me to recommend this site:

This lovely site has a network of editors. You submit to the general site for a quote; a simple process where you sent an excerpt of your work, and the site will broadcast it to their network of editors. It’s like lending-tree for authors! You get all these bids. The editors will do a sample edit of your work and quote you a cost per word. I didn’t choose the cheapest one, I chose the one whose editing resonated best with me, but at least it gives you something to shoot for. It may not get you in with a traditional publishing house, but at least when and if you self-publish, it will be a nice, clean book that looks and sounds professional. So simply; getting your book professionally edited can never hurt.

So, they cost is still too much! What to do?

Well, there are alternatives; which will not be as good as a thorough editing, but maybe at least enough to make your book as professional as it can be.
  • Do you still have access to your old English teacher/professor? Perhaps they can be prevailed upon to assist you in this regard.
  • Line up six friends or relatives, and have them pass the manuscript on, each marking up what they find and initialing the work of the prior ‘editor’ if they agree with the edit. Leave the back side of each page blank so that your ‘editors’ can write questions about the plot, continuity, consistency… notes that there are probably research of factual errors, character flaws that are gaping wide.
  • The little red and green lines under your text on MSWord. Yeah. Those are trying to tell you something. No MSWord? Find somewhere where you can use it, but Word may not be the dream editor, but it will help you tremendously.
  • Get a homonym dictionary. Figure out the difference between their/they’re/there, you’re/your/yore; horse/hoarse, bridle, bridal, mantel, mantle… and all the similar little gaffs that can make a reader’s eye come to a screeching halt.
  • Figure out what apostrophes signify. You may think you know these things, but you really might not… What’s plural, what’s contraction, what is possessive? What’s right? Pies or Pie’s? Hers or Her’s, CDs or CD’s? These may seem like innocuous mistakes, but to many readers they are maddening, and they can be an instant turn-off.
  • Get a Roget’s Thesaurus. You might not see that repeated word until it’s too late.
  • Get a dictionary. Don't use $10 words without knowing their full meaning.

In summary: You may think your story will stand on its own. It might. Chances are; what you might perceive as superficial things like spelling, grammar, flow and continuity are really pulling it down. You could have the next Harry Potter series, but if it looks like a third grader wrote it, well… how far do you think your readers are going to get before they toss it aside?

You have to be honest with yourself about your work. No matter how confident you are in how good it is, you need to be objective about how it is presented on paper. And if it takes extra work or extra dollars to make it worthy, then do it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Dwayne G. Anderson; "Partially Human"

Joshua Plofard grows up in 1980's Los Angeles, polite and kind, popular, loved, and respected -- and, the unwitting incubator of alien DNA. His mother is contemplating the right moment to share this with Joshua when he is wounded and the secret is prematurely revealed. When the citizens of LA discover what flows in Joshua's blood, everything changes. Those who once sought Joshua now shun him. He is ridiculed, taunted, and targeted. Joshua launches a crusade to convince the now intolerant community that he is still just Joshua and not the freak they have come to see him as. With the support of a few friends and his mother, Joshua valiantly opposes the small mindedness of the ignorant, eludes The Prejudice (a cold-blooded eliminator), and saves an alien race on the verge of extinction.

Mr. Anderson's words are delivered entirely sans pretense. No smoke and screens; no circuitous plot. What remains is a simple tale of goodness versus the evil of intolerance. His characters are compelled to be unguardedly honest and straight to the point. If you are looking for an intricate, word-woven story, this may not be the book for you. But, if you are interested in writing that dispenses with the fluff and unabashedly contends with the age old struggle of discrimination, then you can curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and this soft cover for a nice afternoon read. The author says "the theme of the story is that of friendship, love, compassion, and loyalty triumphing over human ignorance and prejudice." Toward that end, his delivery is unfailing.

Odyssey Reviews gives “Partially Human” 2.5 medallions.
Genre: Science Fiction
Reading Level: Child to Young Adult
Author Blog

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Scott Allen; "Survival Op: The Fear in the Wilderness"

Author Scott Allen brings us the story of Marcus; an orphaned, homeless pre-teen who is abducted off the streets and taken to a mysterious island in the enigmatic Bermuda Triangle, and subjected to an existence of harsh survival for the experimentation of a covert government agency. Marcus is joined by Lynn, a young girl who is also orphaned, and the two young people struggle together to find the basic necessities that will keep them alive in a bizarre jungle wilderness replete with creeping, shadowy, carnivorous beasts and government hunters who are hell-bent on destroying them.

The reader will follow these two characters as they struggle to find the things they need to subsist in this harsh wilderness, and as they fight to stay alive. The characters use their smarts and their wits, developing creative weaponry with found and salvaged items; obtaining food, finding and furnishing a hidden shelter; and offer an array of crucial skills anyone could benefit from knowing. These characters must accomplish all these things while simultaneously dealing with the constant threat of being murdered by the assassins dispatched to hunt them down, not to mention the mysterious monster that gobbles up the aftermath of each bloody battle with these child-hunters.

There are some scenes of significant violence and gore depicted in this novel, and perceived by an adult, it might take away from the concept and message. There is also the question of the dialogue, which sounds a little stiff and un-teen-like. The author could benefit from consulting with members of this age group in order to make the dialogue more real. Those issues aside, this is undeniably an exciting, suspenseful read, with lots of action and mystery to compel the reader to keep reading.

Survival Op: The Fear in the Wilderness is a commendable endeavor by the author for his debut book in this genre and age-group, and doubtless, as Scott Allen adds more volumes to this series, they will only get better.

Odyssey Reviews gives Survival Op: The Fear in the Wilderness 4 medallions.

Reading level: Ages 9-12 (Young Adult Fiction)
Paperback: 156 pages
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (March 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0595420621

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Miranda Mayer; "Tinna's Promise"

Tinna’s Promise is a story of change and determination; and keeping a promise above all. The story revolves around Tinna, an assassin from a matriarchal society; ostracized for her heritage, she wanders northwards to find somewhere to belong. She finds Taneth, an awkward, somewhat nerdy, even a bit arrogant man, who is Wiseman for a village of horse-worshippers. Tinna is immediately drawn in to their simple way of life, and drawn to the clumsy Taneth. Part of this world is a boy named Hanru whose own life is rife with troubles and abuse. Both Tinna and Taneth take the boy under their wings, and Tinna makes the boy a promise.

Unfortunately, Tinna is derailed on her attempt to fulfill this promise, and somehow brought into the middle of a seemingly unexplained battle between dragons and the human races. Tinna is now faced with finding her way home from a great distance, contending with this violent war with dragonkind, keeping her promise to Hanru. She also has to begin coming to terms with her own feelings about Taneth, and possibly a new life amongst the Horse-Worshippers. But none of that will matter unless she and her companion Rhoa survive the ordeal.

First-time author Miranda Mayer takes an ambitious leap into creating an original fantasy world. Her characters have realistic flaws, and the story has a gritty, human quality to it that makes it one of the more exceptional fantasy books I’ve read this year. The author makes the bold step of starting the book off with characters that might not be as likable as one would expect; she writes selfishness, arrogance and pride into them. She touches on subject matter not many fantasy authors care to, and keeps the interactions among the most realistic I’ve read in a long time. I particularly enjoyed the quiet conversations between Tinna and Taneth as they get to know one another in the beginning of the book.

As you read along, the characters grow on you; you watch their characters change and develop. It is a very well written story, which perhaps could have been padded a little more with descriptions. I was left wanting for descriptions of the forests of giant trees where the Nimrath live, and perhaps a closer study of Tinna’s homeland and heritage. Despite these missing elements, they did not take away from the story. I especially enjoyed the way she painted the Araki graveyards. Beautiful.

I highly recommend this book to all fantasy readers. Especially the lady readers. The book does have some minor sexual content, so I recommend it for more mature readers. Odyssey Reviews gives five medallions for this book.

Miranda Mayer

iUniverse (2007)

ISBN 0595431461

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ann-Marie Zakos; "First Class Ticket"

Ann-Marie Zakos takes an inspirational approach to presenting a work of spiritual and philosophical questions in her novel “First Class Ticket”. She presents nine truths of life, which she cleverly intermingled into a work of fiction; where three students are challenged by their philosophy professor with an assignment to unravel these nine truths.

The reader will follow these students as they realize, learn, ponder and grow. They are guided by various people into new epiphanies and a deeper understanding of their own individual being; making them look into themselves, and to reflect on their own choices.

These truths are discussed from various perspectives by the diverse characters, and the students use their personal experiences and perceptions to approach, digest and interpret each truth in their own way; at their own pace. The author was careful to give each character a distinct set of personality traits; and to bring them from various walks of life and belief systems to exhibit how each one might perceive each challenge. Any reader can find someone to relate to in these wonderful, three-dimensional characters.

Ann-Marie Zakos takes a collection of ideas and philosophies that would normally read as something dry and abstract by most standard presentations, and delivers them in a conversational, informal manner which makes these deeply relevant ideas easy to digest. She puts them into the context of real life, and fleshes these truths out into malleable ideas that are relevant to all of her readers.

This book is a refreshing change for its genre. The characters are fun and realistic, the challenges and ideas strong and meaningful, and the author’s writing style is engaging and descriptive, mixing ideas of depth and significance with beautiful visuals through the eyes of her main character. It is an easy, yet enlightening read. Odyssey Reviews gives it four medallions.

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Magnum Veritas Publishing; 1st edition (August 1, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0976452332

Monday, July 16, 2007

S.M. Stirling; "The Sky People"

Mr. Stirling is a prolific writer. His works range from exceptional to wordy and anticlimactic. However the ‘The Sky People’ was an extremely satisfying read; and once again, Mr. Stirling does an excellent job describing an alternate history that is believable and three-dimensional.

The author does fall into his usual habits of creating characters that are based on the common stereotype of their nationality; the hickish swamp-dwelling Cajun, the African-American chick with attitude, the Brit with the stiff upper lip. The author tends to pour his characters into these molds instead of just exploring their own personalities, and the stereotypes can sometimes be tiresome.

The story follows an alternate timeline, where humanity discovers that the planets Venus and Mars are populated with humans, Neanderthals, dinosaurs and all manner of other beasts. It doesn’t take long for Humanity to create a foothold on the planets, and for the rivals America and the USSR to pursue their own agendas in doing so.

The main character, a brash and quick-witted Cajun by the name of Marc Vitrac, is embroiled in a heroic rescue effort that takes him deep into the wilds of Venus, and into a war between the Venus native humans, and their Neanderthal enemies. Marc faces a powerful alien intelligence, an army of cavemen armed with Kalashnikovs, the untamed, dangerous wilderness of Venus, and the captivating eyes of a beautiful Shamaness.

This book is an easy read. It’s hard to put down, and once you do, you spend the day hearing that little voice in the back of your head compelling you to find out what’s going to happen next. Despite some similarities to his other works, it is a singular story, with incredible visuals and a wonderful flow. Odyssey Reviews gives ‘The Sky People’ a four and a half medallion rating, and recommends it to anyone who enjoys a good Science Fiction/Alternate History read. Odyssey Reviews also recommends you seek out other titles by this author, including “Dies the Fire” and “Conquistador”.

Publisher: Tor Books (November 14, 2006)
ISBN: 0765314886
Author: S.M. Stirling

(This is a general review, not from an author-submission)

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Cover is Crucial

Your book cover is the catalyst. It is the thing that will make a browsing reader decide whether or not to reach onto the shelf (or click on the link) and to read the little blurb on the back. The blurb is important, but it comes a close second. It's the image that will catch the eye.

Picking someone to build your cover is also a challenge. Some POD companies offer artistic services; however in my own experience as a POD author, their services are without a doubt, questionable. It is hard to work with someone who hasn't read your story, or who hasn't sat across from you to understand your vision better.

But there are solutions out there that are affordable and professional looking. I personally saw what my POD publisher provided and got green around the gills. Here I was, ten days away from final print, and I had nothing. I turned to an artist who rendered beautiful images using special software. Gorgeous 3-D figures that are still illustrative and intricate. What worked well too was that she also happened to be a friend of 17 years. That certainly didn't hurt; but with someone who can render artwork via computer, revisions are much easier to complete.

You can find a ton of these artists at and DeviantArt. The wonderful thing about these sites are that you can peruse through the works to find the artist that most represents your style. And many of these folks are quite affordable. They can also create content of any kind, from serious landscapes, stylized imagery, to Fantasy and Science Fiction scenes. There really is no limit to their abilities, and they look extremely professional.

You have to take into account the importance of the cover of your book--because the truth is, people *do* judge a book by its cover. It's up to you to figure out the best way to make them like what they see.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Welcome to Odyssey Reviews

Who is behind Odyssey Reviews?
I'm a self-published author, a small-press publisher and an avid reader. I have had some on-again-off-again reviewers who've done some reading for this site, including KD Payne, Kris S, and Anna C.  I expect (and hope) our number of reliable reviewers will grow over time. Other people have offered and then flaked out. It happens. Even I've been known to flake out sometimes.

As a self-published author, I have discovered how difficult it can be to find good, helpful review sites that provide earnest review services to self-published authors. I do not believe that one should pay for approval or good words for your book jacket; and I am not pleased at the disdain self-published authors receive from some services. I understand that there are many bad self-published authors, but I also believe there are some exceptional ones out there, and I believe they all deserve the chance to be recognized for what they are by the readers they are trying to reach.

Our reviews are performed for the purpose of quantifying the value of the book we have read. In essence, is this book worth buying? We try to be objective about every book we read, hence the limited genres we read. If we read a book with subject matter that doesn't appeal to our personal tastes, but we see that it is a good book, well written, professionally presented, we will rate it based on that; assuming that someone who likes that subject matter would enjoy it more than we did. We might pick on various parts of the subject matter, but our final medallion rating will reflect the overall package. We are reviewing as readers, not as authors. Remember that, and be sure to click on the link in the red text below to fully understand our policy when it comes to reactions from the author.

We also understand that not all authors can afford an editor. But even the most basic tools, like spell-check, or having someone proofread your manuscript for you are available options to just about everyone. In part we do not have any tolerance for someone who submits a book with glaring flaws of that type. There's no excuse for that.
Yes, we specialize in reviews for Self-Published, POD books. If we're having a lull, however, we may just review whatever commercial book we happen to be reading at the time.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you submit, read this post. You must understand completely how this review process works before you bother to send a query. We want you to be fully aware of our methods before you move forward and submit your work for our review.

Basic Guidelines:
Any queries submitted that do not meet our guidelines will not be accepted. Our guidelines are as follows:
  1. We do not review erotica. We accept stories with tame sexual content that is in context, however books with detailed sexual descriptions, written expressly as erotica will be refused.
  2. Our preferred genres: paranormal, science-fiction, fantasy and mystery. We don't review these exclusively, however you do want your reviewer to like the genre they're reading; it may effect their final review and rating--so if your book isn't one of these genres, you might wish to find another review service.
  3. We also prefer books that have received at least some basic editing. If the book arrives, and it is outright unreadable for the spelling and grammatical errors, we will refuse the review. You need to know this before you send us your work.
  4. If your work is simply so unreadable that we cannot read it, or can only flame it with a horrible review, we will donate it to the library, and post nothing about it. Any books that rate 2 medallions or lower will not be posted.
  5. [UPDATE] We will only review hard-copy books. No .pdf submittals will be accepted. With the convenience of the e-reader now so readily available (Kindle, Nook, etc.) some of our reviewers might offer the option to email a manuscript in epub or .pdf format. Otherwise, a hard copy finished book is preferred, we do not accept raw manuscripts except on very rare occasions for authors we've already reviewed.
  6. All books must have an ISBN number, and be available for purchase through Amazon or another major bookseller site.
  7. All submissions must first go through the query process. Do not email us your manuscript, it will immediately be rejected.
Submitting your query:
Please submit the following information if you would like your book reviewed, and if your book is chosen for review, you will receive an email with a mailing address where you can send your book.
Please provide the following with your submission:
1. Author Name
2. Book Title
4. Genre
5. Brief summary
6. Amazon link, or Author's Page Link
7. Additional (brief) notes you think I should know about your book and story.
Please submit this by email to herodyssey (at) msn (dot) com.

So my book is accepted; what happens then?
  1. All submitted books are donated to Reviewers' Local Libary system after reviewed. The submitted book will not be returned to the author.
  2. You can expect to receive an honest and fair review based on the opinion of the reader. We will provide a concise, summary review as well as a medallion rating.
  3. All reviews will be posted on the book's Amazon page upon request by the author.
  4. You may also place the reviews on the book's Authors' Den page under Professional Reviews.
  5. Self-Published Books receiving 5 medallions will be added to our Listmania List of "Notable Self-Published Books".
  6. Even books we're not crazy about will get an objective review; however our medallion ratings will always reflect the readability of the book in the eyes of the reviewer.
What do the Medallions mean?:
We've sat down together and summarized what a medallion rating means on Odyssey Reviews, however there are grey areas, and sometimes other factors may affect a rating. We also do half-medallion ratings, but this list should offer some clarification. Please note that half-ratings do not apply on Amazon, so we will round up to the next whole star--however the medallion rating is the true rating by Odyssey Reviews.
  • 1 medallion: This book is barely readable--it needs serious revision by the author. It is likely that Odyssey Reviews would simply set the book aside rather than submit a scathing review.
  • 2 medallions: This book is not very good; but it has good 'bones'. Requires revision by author. We will not post a review for a book of this rating.
  • 3 medallions: This book is neither great nor terrible. It is forgettable; the style, draw and originality of the story leave more to be desired. Revision could improve it significantly.
  • 4 medallions: This is a good book. There are some flaws here and there that affect the whole.
  • 5 medallions: This book is above standard; and kept our reviewers reading. Earning five medallions also gets a book on our "Notable Self-Published Fiction" list on Amazon's Listmania.
The Indie Award of Excellence is earned by select books (5-medallion earners only) that are particularly excellent.  I and other Odyssey reviewers only award this distinction to books we think belong on the shelves of commercial bookstores alongside other traditionally published work.  We think these authors deserve an agent, a brick-and-mortar publisher and a marketing department behind them because they're *that* good.