Why We Need A Self-Imposed Book Ratings System

Before my author friends and writer enemies alike join forces to storm my blog with pitchforks and torches in an effort to burn this idea down, I politely ask that they all read this monster-sized blog post from start to finish before building my gallows. I will be going into detail about the why. After that, if you feel I’m wrong and need to have this digital castle burned down, then so be it.

It all begins with a common-knowledge misnomer, and expected age range for a certain genre that some popular authors write for. I’ll begin this possibly stormy ride with the Young Adult crowd.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines a young adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen. That’s the so-called official range. Some readers and writers alike aim for the teen ages, and may want to define their own version of YA as thirteen to nineteen. I’ve actually encountered a few readers, face to face, who insists that YA is a range designed for thirteen to seventeen, and anybody eighteen and older should be considered an adult.

As you can see, there is a hodgepodge of beliefs over this system, yet there is nothing concrete. There is no official system that nails it all down, delivering a rating system that is designed to be identified so a book can be marketed to its proper audience.

So why would we need such a thing? Movies have it. Video games even have it. Those who classify themselves in Children Books do a rather good job at defining their age boundaries. However, books for everyone else who isn’t a thumb-sucking human, the written word that is designed to teach, entertain and expand grown minds, doesn’t.

So Daniel A. Roberts, what is your convoluted take on all of this, and why are you trying to mess it up for everyone else?

It all starts with something called discovery. That is a term used for when an author writes a book, and it gets discovered by a certain audience of readers. It can be a niche genre, like Paranormal Thrillers. It can be a major genre, like Romance. That audience discovers a novel, that author reaps the benefits in royalties and recognition. In turn, that inspires the authors to continue writing for that audience. Such inspiration can be huge to that author, an important element that can generate an entire series.

What has all of this to do with a rating system? Today, most publishing companies and online distributors require publishers and authors alike to choose their genre. However, there is another small selection to make in a different spot. It usually says in some form or another: In order to protect minors from viewing inappropriate material, please let us know whether this book contains language, situations or images inappropriate for children under 18 years of age.

This is the unintended catch-22 for most writers and publishers. Most publishers won’t select this for their novels aimed at the YA market. Even though there is sex, or massive killing sprees, or somebody yelling “Son of a bitch!” or anything else you can find in most PG-13 movies that are made from these novels, if they become popular enough.

Let me use one of those popular examples. The Twilight series. Each and every movie, with the killing and the eventual sex scene where Edward breaks the bed, and nearly breaks Bella with it, along with a huge battle over the half-vampire daughter where heads are ripped off left and right, when did any of that become appropriate for your thirteen year old? Fifteen year old? Each and every movie is PG-13, so according to the ‘official’ moral voices, your 13 year old should be able to watch undead sex and massive killing scenes.  That is a moral argument for another time and another place.  I’m here to discuss the issues I’m aiming at, but the example was required for the rest of my discussion.

What would have happened if the publisher of Twilight decided to follow that broader based description for 18+ and checked that box that said: In order to protect minors from viewing inappropriate material, please let us know whether this book contains language, situations or images inappropriate for children under 18 years of age.

I know exactly what would have happened. Twilight would have been hidden along with the entire Erotica line, even though Twilight is not erotica fiction, and might have never been discovered in the first place. It might not have gotten popular, because if the teenagers searched for the title, it would have been blocked from their viewing. Parents might have gotten more upset if their teens started buying Twilight books from the same digital front-end that displays a title called Getting Laid By My Ex-Nanny. (If any such title exists, my apologies. I made that up to make my point.)

This is where a writer like me gets punished for having a moral compass. Take for instance, one of my novels that is a combination of Science Fiction, Comedy, Fantasy Magic and Action. It is not Erotica of any sort. Defenders of Valinthia. Most people who see the cover thinks it’s light fiction for a young reader, when it’s not. Most people who download it, enjoy it on an entirely different scale. This is a seriously loaded novel, where a war gets fought between Science and Magic. People do die. Body parts get blasted all over a field of battle. Gnomercy (Cool Gnome Warrior) cuts off the head of an enemy space marine. An entire squadron of starfighters gets smashed by magic wielding dragons, and so much more, and yes, it’s also a Comedy.  How can something that violent be a comedy?  You would have to read it to believe it, and some have gone down that road.  What they got was fictional entertainment.  If they would have selected to filter out Erotica, because that subject is 18+, they would have never found Defenders of Valinthia.  

What is the most important part, Defenders of Valinthia is aimed at the 18+ crowd. This isn’t something I want your fourteen year old to read. I will admit this now, if I read it when I was fourteen, I would have loved the novel something fierce. I was fourteen when I read The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. There was a ton of killing, adventure, wars and magic in that novel too. When I pulled it off the sales shelf at the real world book store, it was in the Fantasy section. It wasn’t with the Erotica novels. Those were in the back, in a room that was blocked off with a black curtain, and if an under 18 kid tried to go inside, the sales clerk would holler and chase them out.

For Defenders of Valinthia, because I checked the box that said; In order to protect minors from viewing inappropriate material, please let us know whether this book contains language, situations or images inappropriate for children under 18 years of age. That means it gets hidden with all of the Erotica titles. If you go to the retailer’s online preferences and check the box that says you don’t want to see adult materials like Erotica, so all of that sex-erotica stuff doesn’t litter your search results, you will never, ever find Defenders of Valinthia, because it’s just as blocked off.

I could advocate for a measure to get Erotica placed onto a digital shelf all of its own, like that back room that was sectioned off with a black curtain where only adults who seek Erotica titles would go. I made mention of that a few times, some years ago, to get swamped by people saying I was off my rocker.

It’s easy to point out a problem. Today, I’m going to step it up by suggesting a solution that would ensure this never happens again. Let us develop a rating system where novels can be explored online, where 18+ (Adult) doesn’t mean splashing Erotica all over your web browser if you choose to see 18+ titles.

Before I go much further, it must be said that I’m not anti-Erotica, even though it’s not my cup of tea when it comes to reading. That market has a following all of its own. Authors who write Erotica are making big bucks. I don’t want to deny them their readership, it’s their money, and hey, they’re all adults.

Some online retailers refuse to carry Erotica titles, but they earn the disdain and ire from those who provide them a product to sell. The actual content of Erotica, like sex and violence as part of their formula, worries non-erotica writers something fierce. There is violence, swearing and sex in other books. Will they ban those next? They might, because that author also avoided the 18+ check box, because they didn’t want to be made invisible to most readers who don’t care for Erotica, but are aimed at adults who might want to read that cool Crime-Thriller they wrote. Which is the burning problem from square one. How can you write about crime and not have violent or suggestive themes?

Erotica is a niche readership. Even most adults don’t want to see the sleazy covers and taboo titles mixed in with their search results. It’s enough to hurt the discovery for the authors who use their own moral compass and do select the 18+ box, because they feel their novel isn’t right for that thirteen year old kid.  But then, there looms the ‘hide my book from all adults who doesn’t like Erotica’ effect.  (Yes, I started that last sentence with a conjunction on purpose.  I must be an evil maniac at heart, right?)  

So, what kind of self-imposed rating system should be used? Notice, I said self-imposed. We should, as a community of writers, develop our own system to let our readers know exactly what they are going to read. There are some books that categorize themselves. Children Books are a great example. They do a stellar job identifying the reading age, and nobody forces them to do so.  It’s for their customers to see and decide if that is what they want to buy. Again, we have the YA range of expectations. None of that should actually be eliminated, but expanded upon.

You heard me right. Lets expand the expectation and actually target our novels directly at the age ranges, and with what to expect in our literature, from cradle to grave.

I suggest a Front Matter (usually the first page after the title) listing that can be included right after any ISBN or Copyright claim. Here is an example.

18+ Audience | Violence | Mild Cussing | Sexually Suggestive Themes – No Actual Sex
13 to 19 Audience | Blood and Gore | Violence | Fright & Shock Scenes
18+ Audience | Blood and Gore | Rape | Murder | Genocide
9 to 12 Audience | Arguments | Parental Confrontation Issues | Social Behavior Problems
3 to 5 Audience | Safe for Everyone

That is what I’m talking about. Every Ebook retailer in existence lets their customers view a sample of the written product, including the Front Matter page. This way, the 18+ check box can be avoided, and those who browse the book before buying will know exactly what they are getting.

If anything, change that 18+ check box to say “Check if this is Erotica” and do give them their own digital realm so shoppers who like that stuff can browse it. Leave the rest of us alone to offer our unique worlds, with unique villains and awesome heroes to battle each other, to do what they do best, and not worry about being lumped in with Taboo Sex listings so those who are looking for that sort of thing doesn’t cross lanes by accident. Better yet, so that writers like me will know for a fact that my writing will appear in a search meant for an adult audience, but not meant to be blocked off from adults who don’t want to view Erotica titles.

Or am I really off my rocker for wanting such a thing? Discuss it with me in the comments below. Let me know how you feel about this subject.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cover Changes – Yes, I’m Still On Vacation!

While on Vacation, I decided some covers I made needs to leave the realm of CGI and into a much better developed realm of using real models and an ample application of Photoshop.

I upped my own Photoshop skills by watching around a dozen YouTube videos on various applications of layers, hair and eye color changing techniques and blending options, and with a little practice, I was able to do them myself.

You see, book covers sell the content, the content doesn’t sell the book covers.  Do you know that old phrase?  Don’t judge a book by its cover?  Well, it exists because that is exactly what people do when shopping for a novel.  The cover is a selling tool, making a promise to the potential reader.  Having a dynamic, stellar cover is one of the many catalysts for a novel to start selling in their genre.

My experiment since 2009 was to provide a scene from the novel onto the cover.  Well, it hasn’t worked out well.  From here on out, I’ve changed all the covers for my novels that I’m going to update.  Future work will be done with a bit more traditional methods, which have proven successful for others in the past.

Now to compare.  To see a larger version, click the cover itself and it will expand to an easier to see size:

Old Covers

Darya Rising Official Cover

Darya the Pirate Official Cover

New Covers

Darya Rising New Official Cover Darya the Pirate New Official Cover

Nothing about the writing has changed.  Some online retailers have already changed their data to reflect the updates, such as Apple and Barnes & Noble, but the others might take a week or two to fully change over.

Now back to my Vacation.  ^_^

PS… A Peek at Things to Come – Will be available sometime in 2015!

Darya Queen of the Galaxy Official Cover

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vacation Mode

August is here, so I’m officially on vacation.  I’ll be back in two months.  I have a ton of decompressing to do on various issues, mostly personal ones that don’t belong here.  When I get back, I’ll be recharged, refreshed and ready to write.

Until then, stay safe out there.

^_^

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments

TV Series Submission

Inside my last lengthy post, I supplied a link as to where I submitted a movie script to Amazon Studios.  That movie was written a long time ago.

For something newer, more modern and aimed at those who love a good Fantasy series, I recently submitted a TV Series first Pilot script.  The mini-bible is studio-speak for a clearer representation of the series, the direction the series creator (me) would want it to go in, and to present a character background, and a couple of simple synopsis of the next episode ideas.  Here it is:

The Ultimate Adventure

There is a link in the creative notes on the right for the storyboard.  45 frames worth, if you check it out from the project page.

Please consider giving it a read and to provide feedback on the project page, where the rating stars are.  The series Pilot is in a script format, and won’t take up any lengthy amount of time to give it a read through.  Besides, if it gets produced, you can be the first to say, “I read that before it got put on TV!”

^_^

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pre-Order & Book Trailer Update

First – The Really Cool Stuff

This is the Official Book Trailer for Paradise Project.  It’s a little more than 1 minute long. Enjoy!

Second – Still More Cool Stuff

Paradise Project is up for Pre-Order on Smashwords and the Apple iBook Store.  (Notice how the Apple iBook Store text isn’t a link anymore?)

Now I would really love to provide the Apple link, but in their infinite wisdom, they decided to make direct linking to people’s personal computers far more difficult.  Even those people who use their Apple Computers and iPads to access this page won’t be able to get a link now.

Oh, nothing about the URL system changed, it’s just that if they’re clicked these days, instead of the product page, you are redirected to an ‘Install iTunes’ page.  Which is ticking me off, because the computer I work on has iTunes, and it auto launches every time now. It didn’t used to do that, but when it does, the iTunes product page is now masked from me being able to make a direct link to post here, for your ease of use.  I can’t control that.  Only Apple can, and they’re not about to stop ‘changing’ things for the better.

Well, hindering my marketing efforts for a product on their sales page isn’t helping themselves, but I am a peon in their eyes.  Who am I, right?  Well, besides the guy who provides a product for them to make money on.  For the record, I did uninstall iTunes with the hope the links would function as before, but nope.  The redirect still happens.  Their fault, not mine, that I can’t market their sales pages anymore.

Third – One More Cool Thing

At this point, I’ve actually started to write Darya: Queen of the Galaxy.  I still won’t launch Beta for it under February of 2015, and who knows, I could even have it finished by then. When I do launch beta, there will be a new Beta thread on my blog, and the open invite as well, to anyone who would like to participate.  (If you spotted the fact that I used ‘under’ instead of ‘until’ on the second line of this paragraph, that means you, yes you, can be a valuable Beta Reader!)

The Muliebral Order is still in process as well.  Going back and forth between them seems to feel groovy to this writer, so who knows, 2015 may see a two for one release.  Maybe, but no promises.  My Darya series takes priority.  ^_^

Talk to you all again in a few weeks!  Stay safe out there.

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Big Changes – New Release – Massive Blog Post Starts Now!

Please excuse the mega post.  I can’t help it.  I’m a writer.  I will keep relevant section topics in bold for your ease of finding which subject interests you today.  Now for the first big update…

Paradise Project Pre-Order

Official Paradise Project Cover

It has been uploaded to Smashwords and set to release on 8/15/2014.  That will give the title plenty of time for other retailers to make their own pre-order announcements.  While it can be found and pre-ordered on Smashwords right this second, in a few weeks, I should be able to post pre-order links for the other retailers who find doing that stuff entirely groovy.

If you’re thinking… what a minute, I know that name!  Paradise Project!  Wasn’t that in… and YUP, sound the bell.  Ding ding ding!  This is the 2nd Edition Remastering of the Passion Trilogy.  It has been moved from Romance to pure Science Fiction and Fantasy. What does this mean for Passion of the Different, Passion of the Same and Passion of the Unknown?  Those are Romance titles.  They will stay on those digital shelves.

Paradise Project is remastered for Science Fiction and Fantasy fans.  The plot hasn’t changed.  All of the characters are still there.  Only the voice and point of view has been remastered.  We must face facts here.  There is a reason why fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy shun the Romance section in the bookstores.  Not 100% of them, but 99.7% do. Now those fans can enjoy the same level of adventure in a format they can approve of reading!

The word count for Paradise Project is absolutely staggering.  In no way can most readers finish this novel in a few short days.  The word count totals an incredible 231,330 inside 664 pages, if this was ever to be printed as a paperback.  Which won’t happen of course, unless it goes best seller.

What?  Dan, are you losing it?  $5.95 to buy it?

That’s actually a bargain, and I’m going to prove it.  One, if you were to go and look up the Passion Trilogy, you would see that Passion of the Different is free!  If you want the next two novels in the sequel, they are for sale at $2.99 each.  Keep those figures handy.

Paradise Project is all three of those novels, remastered, thrice edited and with 35% available as a free sample, you can download the free sample and read it… which is the entire first novel, plus a few chapters into the second novel, all in one spot.  Free!  If you pay the 5.95 to get the rest of the book, it’s actually 3 cents cheaper than buying the two Romance based sequels to finish the whole trilogy.

Basically it boils down to what genre you like to read.  If you love Romance novels, the Passion Trilogy is for you.  If you love Science Fiction and Fantasy, Paradise Project is just for you.  Same cool story, just from different perspectives.

Next!

What?  A Movie?!?

Have you ever wished that one of my stories was made into a movie?  There is a slim, as in paper thin slim, chance of that happening.

Of Space and Time

 

If you want to see the script and project page, you can go here:  http://studios.amazon.com/projects/51198

A few of my closest friends have seen this script.  Now you can too!  It’s not a new creation of mine, but one I’ve been hanging onto for a long, long time.  I give dates in the description.  This may or may not get approved.  If you would like to help, download the script, read it, and go back to give an honest review.  Even if the script is eventually rejected, I can edit it as needed, based on the feedback, and resubmit.  Who knows?  Maybe this bucket-wish dream of mine might actually happen, before I can kick the bucket.

Even if this one never gets made, I’m currently dabbling in another movie script, one that uses today’s modern screen language, as well as the more modern screen format.  Once that is finished, as the first 25 minutes is complete, I’ll post that one as well.

Remember, I warned you this was going to be a big post.  Next!

The Muliebral Order

muliebral order cover

I can already hear it.  DAN!  What are you doing?  What happened to One Unlucky Knight? Why do you like writing about women who can kick ass?

Short Answer:  Women rock.  I love having them as heroes.

I sat down for my time slot for One Unlucky Knight.  The words came slow, I hate the main character and how he turned out.  I wanted a flawed knight that a heroic dragon can pick on.  It just didn’t work out.  That happens sometimes.  As for the cover of that novel, I made it myself.  I can retire it for now.  If look at it again, it will be well after 2015.  My apologies.

However, when I changed gears to The Muliebral Order, my fingers became possessed!  They wouldn’t stop!  Five thousand words later, I was wondering what mystical force invaded my mind over this one.  So I made the cover, and it all worked out perfectly.

What does Muliebral mean?  Well, read the book when it comes out.  Or use Google, lol.  It won’t arrive until I’m done with the Darya series, but it will be in development all along the way.  There are no flawed heroes in this one, or prankster dragons.

This is a brutal story.  No comedy.  No love.  It’s about revenge, about a prophesy, and some despotic tyrants who are fueling the sex-slave economy by sending their troops to the borders to capture new stock for the breeder pens.  In case you don’t know me personally, in that universe, I can’t let that carry on.  This is a bloody story, one that should make bad men all over the world cringe each and every time they think about hurting a woman ever again.  Where this plot should be truly epic is how she gains the skills to punish those tyrants, and what she does to share them!

Next!

Brain Taking A Vacation

thumbnail-idle-brain

When August and September hits, my brain is outta here for a bit.  I need to take a vacation.  The other night, I had a nightmare that I was fighting a Thesaurus Rex, and it was using a large letter V set of teeth to bite on my leg.

What’s important though, is what happens at the end of that vacation.  I’ll be recharging my batteries to start writing Darya: Queen of the Galaxy.  I won’t be starting Beta on it until February of 2015 or so, which should have me finishing the story up for that promised 2015 release.

That is the end of this update!  I’ll see you all next week, and I promise, it won’t be another large mega-post with all kinds of weird changes.  ^_^

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The End of June Report

Multiple projects, decent progress.  Paradise Project is nearly complete.  I’m down to revising the last twenty chapters… out of a total of eighty-four.  Yes, it’s that long.

What about that car review I did?  The lowest visit rating ever for my blog, I was upset enough to throw a tough review up on my writing blog.  My apologies.  I didn’t mean to bore anyone.  Now if the car had double barrel lasers under the headlights, a hyperbend class engine with expandable wings… yeah, that might have gotten your attention a bit better.  My bad.  No more car reviews,  I promise.  ^_^  (I can keep that promise easily, I only have one car I’m paying on for at least five more years!)

I ran into more problems with writing One Unlucky Knight that has nothing to do with writer’s block of any sort.  I don’t suffer from that condition.  The main character, Sir Ivan Talbrond, is a man of many vices and even more flaws.  He’s the focus of a dragon who is enjoying exploiting those flaws something fierce, and the more I write about Ivan, the more I’m actually starting to hate him.  What?  I can hate my own main characters?  Darn right I can, LOL.  If I can’t resolve my mental theater with how the plot is working out, in the next two weeks, I’ll retire that novel in progress.  The biggest benefit from that will allow me to start writing Darya: Queen of the Galaxy a touch sooner than anticipated.  Now that will go to completion, regardless.  I always finish a trilogy I start.  Only one thing can stop me. Death.

I’ll be posting another update in two and a half weeks or so.  I’ll talk more about One Unlucky Knight then, and its eventual fate.  To finish it, or to ditch it.  I’ll share the reasons down to the tiny details, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Until then, stay safe out there.  It’s still a hostile environment on our little planet we call Earth.

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment