ABNA expert reviewers

Posted on March 31, 2010 (Subscribe to Blog)

In my previous post I showed the two Amazon editorial reviews that I received for Island of Fog as part of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). Today Amazon made the full versions of those reviews available in my CreateSpace account. You can't see them unless you log in, so again I'll post them here. I don't know why the "public" versions are cropped so short, but anyway, here they are in full:

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

Interesting from the very start. The author was able to create an aura of mystery from the very first page. The writing was clear and crisp - to the point that you felt that you were in the woods with the two boys.

I also enjoyed how the story was allowed to build upon itself. The plot grabs quickly but it does not feel rushed. Overall, I was very impressed.

What aspect needs the most work?

The first 10,000 words are excellent, and I don't think there is a single word that I would change. However, the key for this novel is to maintain this type of momentum and not to fall into predictable plot devices, or becoming overly outlandish (see the TV show "Lost"), or having a cliche cookie cutter ending.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

A nice blend of the TV show "Lost" with the movie "The Village." If the author can continue with this level of quality throughout the entire story I feel that they could have a hit novel on their hands. I certainly would be interested in reading the rest of the story!

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

This YA excerpt starts with a prologue establishing a framework for the story: a group of people are on a fog-shrouded island, where they are being left according to the terms of some "plan." A stranger reassures them and leaves them with a means to signal her if they need help.

The action begins with twelve-year-olds Hal and Robbie exploring deep in the Black Woods. They discover a strange opening in the earth, Robbie has an unexplained spell that leaves his clothes in tatters, and a frightening creature sends them fleeing in terror. What threats are sharing the island with them? Why are they all there?

"Island of Fog" has many strengths but the most notable is the clean, crisp writing. The excerpt is full of physical action and it's very well described, quite visual in its clarity. We don't know what's really going on but we walk (and run) beside Hal and Robbie and feel their fear.

What aspect needs the most work?

The excerpt as it stands is very clean and well-structured. If there is any aspect that seems less strong than the rest, it's the introduction of the talking beast. I would like to see the story crank up the mystery while staying this side of fantasy–but that's just my personal preference and not necessarily the will of the marketplace.

So far we've met only two characters. Can the author develop the rest of the islanders as effectively? I certainly hope so!

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

"Island of Fog" is a very strong entry. I appreciate the care the author took in preparing the excerpt for submission, and if the story holds up as well throughout, then this book is going to get noticed. I hope that happens because it appeals to me very much.

So again I'm happy and looking forward (although with trepidation) to April 27th when the semifinalists are announced. Ah well, either I go through or I don't. In the meantime I have Mountain of Whispers to concentrate on!

Comment by JANA~ on Thursday, April 1, 2010...

Awesome! After seeing some of the reviews on the ABNA forum, I'd say you have a most excellent chance of moving forward.

By this I mean: Your novel certainly deserves to move forward, but if the reviews have anything to do with that, you have a better shot than most.

Good luck, and know my pom poms are at the ready!



Comment by HEATHER on Thursday, April 1, 2010...

Fantastic! If this reviewer has his say it looks like you have a great chance of moving on! Good luck :-)

Comment by DADDEE on Friday, April 2, 2010...

Brilliant. Looking good so far. Fingers and everything else still crossed.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Friday, April 2, 2010...

Thanks Jana, Heather, and DaDDee! (Yes, my actual DaDDee, if anyone is wondering!)

A few people on the Amazon forums are saying that one or two of their reviewers "didn't have a clue what they were doing" and that their comments were unprofessional and unfair. I don't know how true that is because the people who complain rarely post links to their excerpts.

One did though. He titled his post "Judging Unfair, Skewed and Anti-Semitic!!!!!!!!" (note the number of exclamation marks — this from a "57-year old author" and not a kid). His story is about the Berlin wall, and while one review was obviously intelligent (and positive), the other was a little simpler (and negative), saying "most of the story is rambling...and has too information...that doesn't seems to go together" and "it might be a good idea...to get rid of some of the...pauses (ellipses)" and finally "the author has an idea for a story (maybe three or four) but has trouble expressing a cogent thought for more than a page at a time." Not sure where the author got "anti-Semitic" from this, and every reply to this thread has told the author to grow up.

Speaking of reviews, some of these ABNA quarterfinalists are going all-out to get reviews of their excerpts. They're doing the "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" thing, where pretty much all the reviews are 5-stars whether the excerpt is good or not. It's ridiculous. From what I've read, and from what I can gather, none of these reviews make the blindest bit of difference anyway. The next round is decided by Publisher's Weekly reading the entire manuscript. It's only when we get down to the final six that Amazon readers get to have a say, and at that point there will be people genuinely interested in reading the excerpts. So having fifty 5-star reviews NOW won't help, and even with the final six I doubt that it will be based on the sheer number of reviews — it'll more likely be just "please pick a winner out of these six."

That said, if anyone wants to review my excerpt, you can read it (the prologue and first chapter) on my main Island of Fog page instead of having to download Amazon's Kindle version. If you want to review it, just go to my ABNA page... and remember you're only reviewing the excerpt, not the entire book!

Comment by MING on Friday, April 9, 2010...

Can't believe I haven't commented on this yet! Just saw your ABNA reviews - Island of Fog is looking good! :-)

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