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A place for Round 3 Raters (and writers!) to discuss their experiences
Posted: 6/21/2011 8:14 PM PDT
By the way, one might notice from the guidelines for rating that their first example reads: "I read the first two pages of the sample. I didn’t read more because the idea wasn’t original enough, and the main character was extremely unappealing." There you go... two pages because 'the idea wasn't original and because the main character was extremely unappealing'. In two pages. Compared to that the reviews posted above are models of sanity.
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Posted: 6/20/2011 4:39 PM PDT
You know, one problem with that is that is you can't click, copy, and paste the formula. I have reviewed 961 rating so far, and often use the formula, but when I haven't been on for a while it takes a while to get back to it. to find the page where it is hard enough to copy/paste. (And, you know, 'coming this far' doesn't necessarily make someone deserve anything. Many authors that didn't get this far may have worked just as hard.)
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Posted: 6/20/2011 4:36 PM PDT
The problem with being an expert rater is that you are forced into rating everything... your genre, not your genre, the whole world. And you can't skip this book and come back later, when, perhaps, you might be in the mood to read that book, or at least that genre. Rating reflects, in many ways, reality. For every nine people that think Tom Clancy, or Harry Potter, or GK Chesterton, are great writers who deserve to have a statue in the local park, there is one, or three, people that would like to see their works banned and burned. But the rater is forced into a rather inane little box of one through five with names by them that might not match what you feel about the book. Imagine, if you will, that there was a 'not my genre' or more generic 'no rating' button. The rating you received could have reflected any one of a dozen different rating 'qualities'... including 'I would never in a million years have read past page two of this book... unless maybe I was stuck all by myself on a desert island and even then I might have decided to write my own book in the sand." However well spelled, however true to a given formula, or however marvelously breaking out of a stale formula... that doesn't mean one particular reader will like it. But the HAVE TO rate it. Believe me, I've tried just typing in a review and leaving off the rating... it won't work... the computer snarls at you. It should also be said that, at least for me, my ratings at level three are my... level three ratings. Like I might say of Tom Clancy, 'Wow I liked Red Storm Rising but the Bear and the Dragon was.... LOUSY.' I'm not accusing him of being a third grader, or even writing as badly as I do. But, compared to Red Storm Rising.... So, we can't skip, we can't go back and fix, we can't just review and rate, and we aren't being paid by anything except the chance to read your book. And, as far as I am concerned, I would love to sign my ratings and give the author a chance to ask me questions... and to re-read the book in that light. I was chief beta reader for 'Take a Lemon' and I spent literally hundreds of hours talking with the author... and he with me. Plenty of times I said 'this is lousy'... and other times 'that was the best thing in the book'. But there, I was getting paid... not with money, but with interaction with the author. So, sorry you didn't like my review... but feel free to talk to me about it :)
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Posted: 6/9/2011 3:38 PM PDT
I agree. The revolution in the publishing world is already taking place. Legitimate authors are electing to self-publish and/or produce e-books because they not only retain more control, but also because they make MORE money. Agents serve a useful purpose, but the structure of the author-agent-publisher dynamic is changing. Authors have more avenues today to sell "direct" to consumers. POD books will continue to grab a larger share of the book buying market, while traditional books published by offset printers and printed by the thousands will decline. Last Sunday's Oregonian newspaper carried a full-page article about this. As I recall, one author declined a $500,000 standard contract to publish his or her book as an e-book! Best of luck to your continued success!
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Posted: 2/10/2011 1:33 PM PST
Huh. Well I've learned a whole lot from my little "e-book distributor" which is actually a publisher, and now I can add "Published Author" to my query letters, which give them a lot more credence. I've since been published with three other publishers, one of them Harlequin. I can also use this experience to look better in the eyes of an agent, if I should ever choose to take that path. I doubt I'd have gotten there without the help and experience I've attained. Watching the profits and failures of "bigger publishing companies" and comparing the growth of the "e-book distributors" (publishers) is noteworthy. All I'm saying is that there is more than one way to get published, and more than one way to "make more money". Focusing on hiring an agent is one way. Putting that focus into querying publishers on your own is another. And then we can learn from Amanda Hocking's success with self-publishing, and a whole new world opens up for us. We're on the cusp of a great revolution in publishing. One of my publishers has a book by an author (unfortunately not me) that landed on the USA Today Bestsellers list. That's an e-book only, not in print. Two years ago, e-books weren't even on those lists, and now we see that they rank right up there with the big guys. Also, these big NY Trad Pubs take a lot of the fun out of being an author. Can't choose your own title, don't have input in your cover, bound to write what they tell you....there's a lot to be said for the path I've taken. Of course this is all my opinion. Take it as you will, it's not meant to offend anyone.
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Posted: 2/4/2011 9:42 AM PST
The purpose of an agent is to get you away from e-book distributers like Liquid Silver and into the hands of bigger publishing companies. Also, agents can help drive the sales of your books after publishing because they have a stake in it, too. In short, it comes down to money. You have a greater chance of making more through an agent then on your own.
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Posted: 2/4/2011 8:19 AM PST
Okay, since I posted here on 1/11 I haven't received any other ratings on any of my submissions lol Did I scare the round three raters off? As far as agents go, I'm starting to wonder if they're worth it. At least for my market (romance) 90% of the publishers out there don't require an agent to query. Why should I hire someone to push my book when I can do it myself for free? Who's going to love my book more than me anyway? :) I have a cousin who writes YA for Houghton Mifflin, and she'd disagree with me, but I've done pretty damn well on my own. Every book I've written has been published, without the help of an agent. There's my two cents for what it's worth.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 4:48 PM PST
If I knew the answer to that I'd be published already. Seriously, what I did is I went onto a site that has a very large list of agents. I picked the genre and was given pages of agent names and what they're looking for. Because research is in my blood, I googled every agent I was intersted in to find as much information as I could, and then I queried about ten at a time.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 4:21 PM PST
I'm working on it, Lanette - I've sent out my first Q letters on one novel and will suffer through writing more Q letters on other novels as soon as I've recuperated from the last one. I'm pretty lame when it comes to figuring out who to send them to when there are so many publishing companies. How do you hone it down to those that are most likely to be interested?
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Posted: 1/16/2011 4:17 PM PST
Now that really does make me see it all in a different light. I guess I should have entered a variety of stories instead of leaning towards the formulas. Yes, I really do write romances with actual plots where the woman have brains and aren't all demure virgins. I've had shrewd woman lawyers, brave cops, cowgirls who run their own ranches, and even a romance writer - I think my choices for entries weren't as wise as they should have been. I haven't tried Harlequin yet, but when the next Editor Pitch comes around in a few months, I'm tossing my hat in the ring.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 4:17 PM PST
I agree with Skyval. Stop messing around with people who don't understand your genre and submit to people who do.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 4:04 PM PST
Well my words of wisdom would be that you've described different formulas that are sucessful for a particular publisher but you can't to expect a general readership to know that. I had no idea Harlequin had those different categories with certain formulas to follow. You may be writing quite perfectly under their guidelines but as I've said before, this is a general readership type contest and many of the reviewers won't be familiar with what you've enlightened here and there's no avenue to educate them in advance. That's just the way this contest is. Have you tried sending any of your stuff to Harlequin? They could snap you up or maybe give you more educated feedback. Worth a try.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 3:57 PM PST
Thanks skyval - that does make a lot of sense. I guess what still bothers me (and I'm not referring to this particular entry) is that time and time again I've been knocked down for having a "formula romance" and for switching POV. The thing is - publishers like Harlequin have very rigid "formulas" for their romances and in many of their series the POV does jump back and forth. When a rater recognizes it as a "formula", why isn't it simply rated as that style of writing? Why criticize it for being what I intended it to be? There are different types of romances, and using Harlequin just as example, they have Harlequin Presents, which is strictly formula (rich man meets woman of a different class, instantly drawn to one another, etc), then there's Blaze, and Tempatation - sizzlers that are based solely on the sexual attraction, and American Romance which has more of a in depth plot usually revolving around wanting a family. That's just a few of the different types all from one publisher. Unfortunately, I don't think all the raters take this into consideration and go in expecting some elaborate plot. Hit me with some words of wisdom, because I'd really like to understand why some raters continue to try to force my "formula" romances inside a narrow defintion then downgrading my scores because it doesn't fit.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 3:32 PM PST
Kreeves, I’d just add that Rounds 1, 2, and 3 are completely different challenges with different criteria being rated. Every round is a completely new start. Some raters reviewed you in previous rounds, others are seeing your writing for the first time. High scores in Round 1 mean you’ve done a decent job getting readers interested enough to turn the page. Round 2 means you’re a profiecient enough writer that you get the story going. But 50 pages in Round 3 is a lot tougher because plot and subplots have to introduced, interwoven, and the readers interest has to be held for an hour of reading time. A much different animal, to be sure. Predictability is a tricky creature (as RC would say) in that the reader has to feel the characterization enough to expect certain actions on the part of the MC but they want to be surprised as well. I can’t tell you how many Round 3 entries I was excited to start only to see them fall apart for a variety of reasons. Getting to Round 3 is an acheivement, but no guarantee the entry will move further. I mean we’re talking 50 pages vs. 5 pages.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 2:27 PM PST
And I hope the person who left that feedback will read this and realize the endless hours I spent writing and revising my novel and the months and months I spent waiting to get to this point deserved more than a three minute assessment that didn't explain why he felt it rated a 2.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 1:45 PM PST
Here's hoping you get more good ratings and the 2 is an anomoly.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 1:18 PM PST
Yes - I received a 4. The feedback was useful - and it did have me laughing (and cringing) at my own oversight. The MC is supposed to be a highly proficient personal assistant but she didn't know how to use a cell phone, which the rater questioned. I guess I should have considered that, but in all honesty, I can take to a new computer program like nothing else, but hand me one of those new do-it-all cell phones and it's like giving me a calculus problem to solve. Yeah, c-l-u-e-l-e-s-s, I confess. And yes, you are weird but cool like that when it comes to the psychotic ramblings of a zombie nympho.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 1:07 PM PST
I personally love your zombie story, but I'm weird and cool like that. ;) I think you should put it up. BTW, have you received any other ratings on your latest R3 entry?
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Posted: 1/16/2011 1:01 PM PST
And just for grins and giggles - how well do you think my zombie novel would do in PTF? (I promise not to beat you up for an honest, personal opinion)
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Posted: 1/16/2011 12:56 PM PST
Lanette - I don't find it insulting on a personal level - he didn't like it and that's fine. What I find insulting is the total lack of attention he has given to his review. Considering he felt it was necessary to give me a 2, he could have at least put some effort into telling me why. His opening line - Well, I read the whole thing - now THAT was insulting. As if he really didn't want to but did it anyway. I've had short reviews and long ones - the length didn't really matter, it was the content, but this did absolutely nothing except tell me this particular rater put no thought into it at all. I know we've all felt the sting of a low score, but if this is truly a member driven site where the reader's scores indicate how your novel will do in the market, why is it that I've had 5 novels reach Round 3, only to get blown out of the water? I received 90 votes on this, 72 of which voted to elevate - an obvious indication the readers like it, yet I can't get past the 12 or so expert raters. How can I even begin to make revisions that will give me a shot at making it through R3 if this is the type of feedback I receive?
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Posted: 1/16/2011 12:28 PM PST
Just going on his comments and not from what I have read (although I have read it), it doesn't make sense to me that he gave you a 2 because his criticism was the lack of tension, but he recognized that you can write. A 2 would have made more sense if he thought the writing was bad and it lacked tension, or if he thought the characters were flat and it lacked tension. But I think if he liked the writing but thought it needed more tension, a 3 would have been a more suitable rating. But as to the critique itself, it's not insulting, and I believe he gave you an honest assessment. However, he would have been more helpful to give you examples of bringing that tension into the ms.
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Posted: 1/16/2011 11:43 AM PST
acoca - this is the same problem I've had from the beginning. One comment I received was, "I don't like women who need a man to tell them they're beautiful" - what does that have to do with my writing, character development, plot?? Nothing. It has to do with that particular rater's personal dislikes. I just received a "2" on one of my Round 3 entries and waited a day to post because I was too upset by it to put across anything but an emotional response. So rather than just rant about it, I would truly like opinions on whether I am being irrational or if this review is as lame as I think it is: Well, I read the whole thing. This is really not my genre, I guess. I like some romances, altho I'm much more of an anti-romance kind of guy (like where two people hate each other but have to spend a lot of time together until they fall in love, kind of thing) I must say I didn't like this book. I think that, overall, you have writing talent, but the overall tension of this book was, for me, completely lacking. I read the synopsis, and I knew the book. The characterization might have been interesting, had it done anything toward the plot, but it didn't. The plot was evident from the get go, and was present on page one. Technically, it was fine; and the concept was OK, but there was, simply, no tension involved, at least IMO. That was it - no clearly defined reason that I could see other than it wasn't his type of novel and he's apparently such a genius he had the whole thing figured out just by my three line synposis. This novel reached Round 3 with an 80% vote to elevate - even leaving my injured pride behind, I fail to see how anyone can give it a 2 unless they simply have no concept on how to rate a romance.
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Posted: 1/12/2011 1:19 PM PST
If there were more than a dozen or so ratings in round three, I wouldn't worry so much about it, but this really hurts in this stage. Seriously, I've read books where the main character is a blood sucking vampire. Doesn't make the book bad, just because I don't agree with killing humans by draining their life force. Still worked up a little.
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Posted: 1/12/2011 10:46 AM PST
That's awesome...you're right, the person was talking right back to the CHARACTER! Good job making that reality happen. Don't take it personally. The rater needs some perspective, though. ::eyeroll::
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Posted: 1/12/2011 5:39 AM PST
OMG! I hadn't read your latest critique. That rater wasn't rating the book, but lecturing your MC. In that person's mind, your writing must have been pretty good for the MC to come alive to her like that. Wow! If I came across something that affected me like that, I would rate according to the quality of the writing, but then I would say this is not something I would read and explain why.
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Posted: 1/11/2011 8:20 PM PST
Okay, I've calmed down a little bit. Still, an "expert" should not rate a book based on whether he or she agrees with the actions of a main character. Romance isn't your genre? Fine. Skip the book. Please.
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Posted: 1/11/2011 6:57 PM PST
Thank you. I just received this "rating" on my book: Expert rating: 1 It took me a while to read [bookname]. I assume you are aiming for the romance novel market. Unfortunately, I am going to inject a heavy dose of reality. The quality of the writing is good. I didn't see any misspellings or poor English. My problem is with the subject itself. There are too many unwanted children in the world. [Heroine] is a control freak in La-La land. She doesn't know what to say without a script. Children are by definition unscripted, messy, and time consuming. Is she ready to spend the next 18 years of her life caring for something uncontrollable? Does she have the resources to live on her own for 5 years? If this were an Ann Landers column, she'd tell the girl to go take a cold shower and get involved in something and take her mind off babies. I'd say more but I would only rant. Final score: 1 How the bleep is this helpful to me, or anyone else. This is an "expert"? Fail
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Posted: 12/21/2010 6:31 AM PST
Ah, thanks for the clearing up about the Briticisms. There was a discussion here some time ago started by a British writer who was unhappy with ratings and cited the differences in wording for the reason their ratings were low. Not true! I remembered the entry and understood perfectly why the ratings were low and it had nothing to do with Briticisms. I read and critique for a Brit writer who lives in Southern California and writes detective novels (again, not my genre) starring a hard-boiled American detective. My sole purpose is to check for Briticisms (he doesn't want any at all since his mc isn't British.) My favorite was when he had this tough cop undoing the "waist button" of his trousers. Perfectly okay to use Briticisms, in fact you should, but maybe check the context to make sure your reader understands. I love learning new words and phrases when the context allows me to understand the meaning so I can file it away in head. The same challenge exists for American writers using regional words and phrases. Maybe a "Biro" isn't a Britcism at all but a brand of pen that can be purchased here and I'm just too dumb to know it.
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Posted: 12/21/2010 2:22 AM PST
Thanks - this clears up a couple of things for me. I wasn't aware that once you start reading you're committed to rating, for example. And what you say about reading outside the genre is absolutely fair enough - big thanks for the 5, by the way - my point being exactly what you said in your review about the 'world-building'. My feeling is that any genre demands certain staple elements which non-fans sometimes dislike as cliches, and I think that's partially what happened with the first review. Um yes, the Briticisms. Biros are ballpoint pens, for what it's worth. Hoardings are those big boards which they put around construction sites and use to advertise whatever particular piece of soulless, corporate crime-against-architecture they happen to be perpetrating inside. Not that I'm biased at all...
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Posted: 12/20/2010 4:15 PM PST
Mmmm, James. If I may respond? First off, I'll say I rated your entry. As Round 3 raters, we aren't given more than the genre category and mini description before we click to rate and entry and have only the option to skip or rate. I've only skipped two entries so far and rated the rest available. We may not go back and rate anything we skip, and once we've chosen to rate, we cannot skip afterwards. I don't know anyone who reads EVERY genre out there, but I enjoy rating outside what I'd normally pick up at the bookstore. If you can draw me in and entertain me, I'll read any genre! Having an entry of my own (already elevated to Round 4), I'm pretty sure most people who rated mine do not normally read my genre and I found their comments immensely helpful. If every rater who doesn't normally read YA skipped mine by considering themselves not an expert, I'd be waiting forever for ratings and would've missed out on a lot of helpful critique. That being said, I was the one who gave you a five, declared myself not an expert in your genre but gave you due credit for your writing and storytelling skills. I enjoyed your entry immensely and would've kept reading! And I'll add that out of my 40 some odd ratings, I haven't given out many fives, and those have spanned a variety of genres. My review for your entry was one of my shorter ones because I couldn't find much to criticize. My favorite rating on my own entry ( I appreciated all my ratings everyone!) started out, "I was prepared to hate this, but I was immediately drawn in...." (paraphrasing here.) And....what exactly are "biros" anyway? And "James" is the name of my mc!
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Posted: 12/20/2010 12:18 PM PST
I am very grateful to VMorton for her support and since this came from a review of my submission 'The Narrows' I thought it appropriate to comment. The rater had mentioned some specifics earlier in the review; this was more of a 'last word'. I disagree with a lot of what they have said about my writing style - as an English Literature teacher I kind of know what works and what doesn't, at least for me - and it seemed to me that they wanted the story to charge straight into the action much more quickly at the expense of anything resembling suspense. But there was also a simple inability to read the text accurately. They state for example that on pg2 I use a lot of female pronouns without stating the character's name, even though it was mentioned on pg1. They express confusion over the identity of "this guy" on pg6 who was quite clearly just somebody the protagonist had seen on a reality TV show and not a character. They have misunderstood my use of the pronoun "you" instead of the more formal "one" to describe actions which people in general perform, believing that I have mistakenly switched from a third to second person narrative. Finally, they are contradictory in stating that the premise is "interesting" but the story is "not compelling". My impression of this rater is that they either read my submission in a hurry, or just didn't get it. Either way, why go on then to give it a 2? If you can't be bothered to take the time to read it properly don't read it at all. And if you simply don't get it, admit that it's not your cup of tea and skip it, but don't judge it as if you know what you're talking about (there I go with the "you" again). Subsequent raters have been very kind and honest in saying that even though they don't usually like/appreciate this genre they are happy to rate it on the quality of the writing. But even so, why are they rating submissions in a genre that they would not normally read? Why are they being given them to rate? As a horror writer I would have no idea how to judge a romance and wouldn't even try. I don't necessarily want formulaic reviews - I'm happy for them to be ad hoc and informal - but I think the very least that we as writers can expect is that our submissions are sent to people who a) are actually fans of our chosen genres, and b) have the ability to read accurately. James Brogden (The Narrows)
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Posted: 12/19/2010 6:33 PM PST
I have a hard time believing there wasn't more to the review than what you quoted. Did the Expert Rater go on to explain what needed to be re-worked?
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Posted: 12/19/2010 6:05 PM PST
...by being thorough, I do not think we should provide corrections or suggest alternative wording, but I do tell them if each of the elements is working or not, and why I think it is working or not. It's not our job to teach writers how to write at level 3.
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Posted: 12/19/2010 6:00 PM PST
Suggested points to cover for a professional review are: Structure, Plot, Premise, Character Development, Tone/Voice, Other. We can give our emotional responses in "OTHER" and we should. But to not address the rest is really short-changing our colleagues. After submitting my review, I look at the others and see things like this: "I read the first few pages and skimmed the rest. The premise could be good but only with a lot of re-work." This emotional response would help the writer in what way? Good fiction should draw an emotional response, but we are also supposed to be providing a service in our capacity as "Expert Raters." We are the last stop for these writers before they go/don't go to the literary showcase. Why wouldn't we want to be thorough?
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Posted: 12/19/2010 3:29 PM PST
I've rated a lot of round three entries and find my reviews vary in length based on the excerpt. I'm thinking of them more as reviews than critiques. Who am I to say how a writer should fix voice? I can say the voice didn't work for me or didn't sound like the age of the character, but I try to refrain from lecturing on how the writer should fix it. On some entries I find myself making notes along the way and others I've become so engaged in, I forget to do so. Those entries usually end up with a much shorter review and a higher score. A few have had so many problems, I don't know where to even start but try to give a few generalities as to why the story or writing needs work. As far as plot, I tend to comment on whether the story seems predictable or whether I have no idea where it's going but most importantly, whether I'm engaged enough as a reader to continue. It's a fine line between giving the writer an impression and specifics so they can spot a trend and inserting my own style into their story. Isn't P2F a contest of finished work ready for review rather than the projects area of Webook? The result that counts is the numerical score but in this round we are able to give the writer an opinion on why we gave a score. I understand what you're saying about "emotional" VMorton, but that's kind of the point, isn't it? What was your emotional response as a reader? Were you engaged? Repulsed (in a good or bad way)? Gripped? Touched? Bored? And if you weren't, why not?
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Posted: 12/19/2010 2:19 PM PST
Yes, I'm not talking about following it in strict order, but the writer deserves to have the points addressed. As I stated, my objection is the *Emotional* responses that don't give any specific information about plot, CD, voice.
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Posted: 12/19/2010 1:15 PM PST
VMorton, a rater can give good feedback without following the outline. I've seen some ratings that follow the outline are rather restrictive with half of the words being verbatim of the outline. On the other hand, I have read feedback without the outline that are very detailed. I realize some ratings that don't follow the feedback are nothing more than 50 word paragraphs saying they like it or don't like it without much substance. But I have seen other feedback that don't follow the outline that give quotes to show examples of what works and what doesn't, what needs to be changed, deleted, or added to. The outline was never to be a regimented program that we follow but a suggestion and a tutorial on how to rate. If a rater can rate well without it; then his ratings should be counted. If a rater does not feel he can rate adequately without it; then by all means, use the outline.
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Posted: 12/19/2010 7:30 AM PST
I suggest that if round 3 raters can't follow the review outline (e.g. plot, structure, CD, etc.), their ratings will not count. I do not have a round 3 submission myself, but I am rating them and I'm seeing a lot of reviewers who just write an emotional paragraph instead of following the rating outline in a professional way. This isn't helpful to the author. The authors who have come this far deserve more than this.
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