I’m a happy man! While I wasn’t looking, two more readers posted their thoughts on my first novel on Amazon. And they were quite nice! Both were 5 stars and they offered some highly encouraging words to boot. Here is the latest:
My second review has come in! And this one comes from my friend and colleague Rami Ungar. While we are friends and fellow-writers, I can always count on him to be honest. I tell you, I owe this guy several reads and reviews at this point! In any case, here’s what he had to say (like I said, honest!):
I’ve enjoyed the world building as another reviewer has stated and am starting to warm to some of the characters. I really like how the action is taking place on various planets/moons of the solar system, and am eagerly waiting for further instalments of the story. For a (seemingly) first time fictional author it’s certainly well written.
Wow! And here I’ve been feeling self-conscious about my writing all along. When you know people are going to be reading it, you really begin to second guess your choices of words, your pacing, everything. Hearing a comment like this makes me feel a bit more comfortable with the writing process.
And here is the second and latest review, which came courtesy of Heather Archuletta. I bragged about her impressions in a previous post (which she posted on twitter) but I’ll let her speak for herself right here:
The Cronian Incident, which I recommended to my audience as my top Sci-Fi read of the year, is a treasure of planetary science. From bio-implants to solar system stations to the particular engineering environments in each planets’ system, this is a well-developed story with believable settings and characters. The author has a firm grasp of exobiology and extremophiles that will please scientists who enjoy ‘realism’ in their reading, but enough possible future tech that will also please the space-opera crowd. Don’t be afraid of methanogenic hydrocarbons — the hard science is never overwhelming, but neither does Williams assume is audience is dumb by over-explaining anything. A nice balance is struck, here. The novel assumes you know the basics of aerospace, but even if you don’t, you’ll follow the hero because you want to, as his reluctance transforms into purpose. The standout in terms of detail is the uniquely, culturally distinct planets and moons, which could only be done with competent research on each environment, and projecting the imagination into the framework of what it would truly take to colonize places like Mercury, Titan, or Callisto. Join the Interplanetary Accord.
That title needs a little explaining, I realize. Since it’s release in September, The Cronian Incident has been accumulating reviews. And I”ve been monitoring them pretty closely. These days, Amazon.com and Goodreads are kind of the gold standard for online reviews. And between them, the book has eight reviews on one and seven reviews on the other.
The book has done far better on Amazon, where it has accumulated an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. I tell you, you can get greedy for 5-star reviews when that’s what the first few are. But so far, I’m very glad that no one who’s reviewed it on Amazon has rated it lower than four stars. Sure, there was some constructive criticism here and there, but that’s what’s good about a decent review that offers some pointers. You know that they liked it, but were still able to offer some suggestions on how it could be improved.
On Goodreads, things have gone a little less well. With seven reviews to its name, my book has accumulated an average ranking of 4 out of 5 stars. I’m still very thankful for that much, but you kind of get slammed when some people don’t like your work and say so! In this case, one person gave it a 1-star review and that brought the overall ranking down. Not going to name names, but I did look up what they had to say and found out that they didn’t like the book because it was: Cursing, icky vilence, slow.” (that typo is all them).
Hmm. I wish they had said “Cursing, icky violence and sex”. That one bad review would have sold a thousand copies! And, from what I understand, as soon as I reach ten reviews on Amazon, advertisers will apparently start taking me seriously. So if you’ve already read the book and have not found the time to make a review, that would great!
Okay, I think its about time I stopped posting every time I get a good review. That’s got to be bad manners or something! But at the moment, I just can’t help myself. The Cronian Incident has been out for one month (as of October 5th), and I’m very happy that the first reviews have been universally good. The latest comes from by friend over at Goodreads, Scout.
“I haven’t read science fiction for years, so I had a pretty fresh approach to reading The Cronian Incident. First of all, I’d never thought about the fact that science fiction writers, especially in a first book in a series, can’t just tell a story; they have to, at the same time, create the world in which the characters move. I’d say that Matthew Williams did an excellent job with this. I now have a good understanding of how the world works in this series. I’d describe the novel as a futuristic sci-fi detective novel with some elements of the Wild West thrown in. Ward, the main character, begins as a convict, formerly an Interpol agent. I won’t go into detail on the plot, but I found it interesting, and this was a fast read once I figured out the basics of the world in which it’s set. I’ll leave it to the reader to discover how Williams worked possible future advancements into the novel. Suffice it to say that I was intrigued.”
Thanks Scout! And to the internet gods, may I implore you to please let reviews like these keep coming!
The first reviews for my recently-released novel have come in. And they are admittedly pretty good! If there’s one thing a new author who has just released a book will suffer from, its that pins-and-needles feeling that comes with waiting on the first reviews. Good ones will help attract new readers and fans to your book, while bad ones will cast a stink on it which will be hard to shake! So as you can imagine, I was really happy to see these!
The first was posted on Amazon, where JJ Clayborn (a fellow SF writer) wrote the following:
“Mr. Williams delivers an exciting tale in this story. It was a very enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing more from him.”
And of course, there was the lovely advanced review from Professor Abraham Loeb himself:
“An exciting science fiction adventure into the technological future. An exhilarating read for scientists and fiction lovers alike.”
First off, let me apologize for not announcing this sooner. But as with all good things, I didn’t want to announce anything prematurely or risk jinxing it. To put it simply, I have been approached by a publisher about my current work in progress – The Cronian Incident. And while nothing has been put in writing just yet, if all goes well, it will be part of Space Dock’s 2017 publishing catalog – which is the sci-fi subsidiary for a UK publisher.
To start at the beginning, back in October, this publisher sent me a message via Facebook. It seemed that we were part of the same writer’s group, and he had heard me going on about The Cronian Incident and all the ideas I was exploring to create it. Apparently, this is something lots of publishers do these days, which is rely on social media to look for aspiring authors.
Anyhoo, I replied to him that I would be interested, and that the manuscript (though not yet complete) was coming along nicely. Over the course of the next few weeks, we did the usual back and forth. He explained what they were looking for and asked me about my long-term plans, I told him about the overall story and how I hoped to write sequels to it.
He then asked me to send the first four chapters to see if it had promise. Here too, I learned something valuable. These days, its the first four chapters (not five, not three) that make-or-break many online sales. You see, people using Amazon are able to download these as a sample and will base their decision to buy the whole book depending on whether or not it’s grabbed their interest.
So the first notes the publisher gave me was that he liked the idea, but also stressed that the beginning needed “a hook”. There was little in the first four chapters of my original draft to introduce the overall plot, they said, and things kind of built slowly. So I revised it, added a prologue that contains the “inciting event” of the story (a kidnapping) and sent it back. This met with his approval, and he sent it on to one of his editors for a second look.
And just a few days ago, they got back to me again. Once again, I got some kudos on the story, but more concerns that things take too long to develop. However, this time around, it was more in the form of a suggestion. I took this to be a good sign, but of course I took the suggestion seriously. These people know what readers are likely to buy, so I’m not about to disregard their recommendations.
So I’m doing a second round of edits now, and working to complete the novel so its ready for the 2017 publishing season. At this point, I’m over 70,000 words into the story, and I imagine there’s about ten more chapters to go. At this rate, I can estimate that the final product will be probably be about 100,000 words (though that is likely to come down after all the editing is finished).
And like I said, nothing has been signed yet so nothing is written in stone. But so far, I’m pretty enthused about how things are going. It’s taken me over ten years to actually get to the point where a publisher was interested in my work and contacted me. In the meantime, feel free to join me in being cautiously optimistic!