When Julie and I got our first ereaders–a pair of Kobos–I went searching for content from independent authors. I was publishing my first novel, Risen, myself and was intrigued by how ebooks were making self-publishing viable for just about the first time ever. I wanted to find more books from authors taking this road, I wanted to find cheap ones, and I wanted to find good ones.
When someone (I don’t remember who) on some forum (I don’t remember which one) gave Shayne Parkinson’s work a glowing recommendation… and mentioned that the first book in this four-part series was free… I checked it out.
I found that Sentence of Marriage, the first part in the Promise to Keep series, was as well-written as any traditionally-published popular novel I’ve read. This isn’t the norm among self-published books… or traditionally published books, either, come to think of it… where much of the prose that’s offered barely rates a passing grade.
Shayne Parkinson’s writing came as a pleasant surprise, rich and evocative and professional. The story about a young woman growing up in turn-of-the-last-century New Zealand seemed to be something Julie would savor. I put Sentence of Marriage on her Kobo and asked her to tell me what she thought.
Soon she was reading away with her Don’t bother me, I’m reading face on. She devoured the first book in short order, then marched into the office where I sat at the computer.
“It’s a series!” she announced. “Get me the rest!”
Because I love Julie, and because I value my life, I immediately downloaded the other three parts of Promises to Keep, loaded them onto her Kobo (we had to use wires back then) and handed it back to her. I barely saw her for the next several days.
When I checked the reviews at Amazon today, I saw that Sentence of Marriage averaged a surprisingly conservative 3.7 stars out of 5. Reading the reviews, I could see why: Many readers were expecting a Romance novel and Sentence of Marriage wasn’t living up to their expectations.
So let me state plainly: Sentence of Marriage is not a Romance! It’s historical fiction, and some of it’s pretty grim.
Another reason for the relatively low rating is probably due to the first book’s being free. You’ll see nearly perfect ratings (4.6 – 4.7) for the other books in the series, where people had their expectations in line.
I’ve seen Sentence of Marriage offered for free and also for $0.99. I’ve seen the subsequent books priced at $1.99 and $2.99. I hope Shayne Parkinson is in the process of moving to higher prices. Ebooks are established now, and work this good doesn’t need to appear in the bargain basement to attract readers.