Hello All My SPFBO
Kristen and I are back again this year, we’ve been a team for several years and known each other longer than that. We work very well together and have a pretty accurate feel for how the other will receive a book. We have Graham Austin King on our team this year as well. All of us are stoked to be here and can’t wait to get started!
I hope to be quick about things this year.
- Our goal is to have at least a brief review and feedback for each book in our batch.
- Cuts will be made first in batches of 3, then announce semifinalists, then our finalist.
- We’ll have anywhere from 3-6 semifinalists and we will work as a team to determine what goes forward using an average of our scores.
- All of our reviews and announcements will be posted to both this blog and Superstardrifter for maximum exposure. We share a big portion of followers, but we each have a few hundred or so on twitter and elsewhere that are exclusive to us. We want to give our batch as much exposure as reasonably possible.
- Follow Kristen’s BLOG
- Follow Kristen on TWITTER
- Follow Kristen on Goodreads
- Follow Esme TWITTER
- Follow Esme on Goodreads
- Follow Graham on TWITTER
- Follow Graham on Goodreads
How I (Esme) Judge Books
This may not interest the readers but it might interest the authors who are assigned to our group, and any finalists later on.
I rate books using a rating system that includes Plot, Character, World Building, Writing, Pacing, Originality, Personal Enjoyment. Using x/15pts for all the categories except personal enjoyment which is x/10, I come up with a final score of x/100. A book may score “okay” across all categories and get a 70/100, or it can have a wild range of scores with highs and lows that average out to a 70/100. Not all scores are equal or represent the same things. I can also give a book a good score overall but still give it a low score in personal enjoyment to differentiate between what I think has a broad audience, and what entertains me personally.
My scores will mostly fall in the 6.0 to 8.5 range for SPFBO, I can almost always find something redeeming about a book, and I almost always see a way improvements can be made. I’ve never given out a 9 to a finalist yet, but I have given out 9’s to a handful of other titles that fell in the first round. This contest is subjective by nature, and even though I try to be ‘objective’… all I’m able to do is stay consistent within myself. Over the course of the years many people have pointed out that what one judge implies by a score of “6” may not align with other judges. Some judges may enjoy books they rate 6, while others feel a 6 means the book needs work and they didn’t like it. I can’t speak for anyone else, but this is how it works for me:
My (Esme) Scale & What It Means
1-29/100 = Nothing at all redeeming about this book. The plot either makes no sense, has holes in it, or has blatant inconsistencies. The characters are flat and two dimensional, the dialogue is ridiculous/stilted/stiff, the world-building is nonexistent or is inconsistent, there are spelling and grammar errors everywhere. Likely a DNF, would not recommend.
30 – 49/100 = Eh. a lot of work needed in most categories, but is passable in others. Probably a DNF and would be unlikely to recommend.
50 – 65/100 = Okay, moderate work needed in many areas, but had moments where it shined. I won’t continue on with the series but may recommend it to niche audiences.
65 – 75/100 = Enjoyable, but needs an editing pass/polishing/fleshing out … a moderate amount of work to do. I likely won’t continue on with the series but would recommend it to the target audience.
76 – 85/100 = Good, mostly polished, only a couple areas that need work and had many memorable moments. I might continue on with the series and would definitely recommend it broadly.
85 – 94/100 = Great, Very little work needed, polished and professional. I would highly recommend it to a very wide audience. I absolutely will be reading the rest of the series.
95+ = Almost unheard of on my scale. I have had a total of two 100/100s given out on my blog and both so far have gone to Pratchett books, Night Watch and Small Gods to be specific. However, the majority of Discworld books don’t touch 95/100 and fall in the 85-92 region. Scoring this high would automatically land the book into my all-time favorite reads, I would eventually own multiple copies. I would shout how much I love this book from the rooftops and physically throw the books at people. Giveaways galore.
As for me….
If you don’t know me, first of all hello! Let me take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Kristen. I hail from Toronto, Canada, but I currently live in Houston, Texas. I’ve been a pretty voracious reader for most of my life, and fantasy has been one of my most treasured genres to dive right into. You’ll also see me read a lot of science fiction and romance. I’ll read everything that sounds up my alley, even if it’s something I’ve never heard of or tried before.
Esme and I complement each other well, as we both enjoy a huge range of subgenres, and tend not to overlap much in those that we like less than others. So it’s quite easy for me to take on all of the more romancey or steampunk books, and Esme to take on more of the hardcore military or flintlock fantasy. With a third judge in the mix, it’s even easier for us to find the right home for our books, to give them the best possible chance to be loved by one of us. Even if I’m cutting a book from my pile, I do my best to try and say a few words about it, why it didn’t work for me, and who I think it would appeal to.
How I Rate Books:
I’m not quite as thorough as Esme is in my scoring technique, but I do take the same things into consideration as she does when I’m scoring a book. I just find them much harder to quantify in the grand scheme of things. Here’s a bit of a breakdown of how I score:
0 – 2 (1 star) – There are a number of things that can land a book here. Historically, this includes things like unnecessary sexual violence, rampant misogyny, or protagonists doing awful things without ever being punished in any way for them. Those of you who have followed me through the last couple of years will know that I do not go easy on books that land in this category. I’d say sorry, but if I have to explain why rapey assholes don’t get the girl and live happily ever after, then I’m not really that sorry.
2 – 3.5 (2 stars) – Books that land here aren’t quite so bad, but are still pretty heavy on this sort of thing. Sometimes books here are just not… very good. This is subjective, of course, but books with plots that don’t go anywhere, characters that are flat, or that just plain don’t make much sense end up here.
4 – 5.5 (3 stars) – This generally means that I liked it, but it didn’t wow me. Sometimes I’ll finish these ones and sometimes I’ll just call it a day before getting to the end. Usually books in the lower half of this range will just bounce off me. I can objectively see the appeal, but subjectively don’t dig it. I’ll usually try and point these towards someone who I think will like it, if possible.
6 – 7.5 (4 stars) – This means that I liked it. Books that land here usually wow me, but they don’t leave me screaming about them for weeks on end (not that I… uh… do that). These are books that I would recommend to friends if they contained aspects that those friends were seeking.
8 – 10 (5 stars) – this one is kind of obvious. I’ve never actually given a 10 in the SPFBO thus far. I have loved quite a few books though. I’m still hoping to find my first 10/10. Books with snarky/witty and likable characters who have grand adventures with the occasional hilarious shenanigans and/or a well-written romance will very likely end up in this area. Again, this is subjective.
I hope for a wonderful year of reading! ^_^ Let’s hope for that 10!
Graham Austin-King’s Intro!
Graham Austin-King was born in the south of England and weaned on broken swords and half-forgotten spells. A shortage of these forced him to consume fantasy novels at an ever-increasing rate, turning to computers and tabletop gaming between meals. He experimented with writing at the beginning of an education that meandered through journalism, international relations, and law. To this day he is committed to never allowing those first efforts to reach public eyes. After spending a decade in Canada learning what ‘cold’ really means and being horrified by poutine, he settled once again in the UK with a seemingly endless horde of children. To date he is the author of five novels, drawing on a foundation of literary influences ranging from David Eddings to Clive Barker.
Graham has no set and structured rating system, but bribes of chocolate and wine are being accepted. I can only imagine his axe will play a central role in how he cuts his books.