Review submission guidelines

As a writer, I know how difficult it is to get reviews. So I’d like to give back a bit and offer a review service that doesn’t charge and gives fair and honest feedback. Apart from anything else I enjoy a good read and connecting with new authors. I’m setting myself a target of reviewing two books a month. Once I’ve booked up a year’s-worth then I’ll close the door on submissions until I’ve caught up with myself. But for the moment, the door is unlocked and I invite you to say ‘friend’ and enter.

I am happy to receive submissions from authors of any experience, self or traditionally published.

Preferred formats: paperback/hardback, .mobi and .epub . A hard copy is wonderful but it won’t prejudice my response if it’s electronic. Don’t send pdfs. Your willingness to format a book into kindle or ibooks format tells me something about your dedication as an author.

I am very keen to read: horror (in all its forms), dark fantasy, urban fantasy, noir, bizarro and speculative fiction.

I am not interested in: zombie stories, vampire stories, paranormal romance, fan fiction or anything with unicorns in.

You can try me on: sci-fi, thrillers, crime/detective – if it’s got a dark theme (for dark theme, think John Connolly), post apocalyptic/dystopian – if it’s original writing then I’m interested. Oh, and I might consider other forms of fantasy as long as it’s not called something like Book V in the Chronicles of Snarkentheos’ sextology. In fact, any title with the word ‘chronicles’ in it will be summarily dispatched with a stake through its limpid heart.

Story length: novels, novellas, short story collections, just about anything goes.

How I review:

Send me an email to the address below with the title of your book, blurb, author bio. I will email back if I want to consider it – don’t attach your book at this stage. In fact, I’ll email you back even if I don’t want to review it – I’ll attempt to give a reason but in all likelihood it’s simply that your blurb didn’t grab me (no offence intended.)

First hurdle: I read your story – surprise surprise. If I’m still reading after the first page then you’re on to something.

Second hurdle: I’ll then read your first chapter or first 3,000 to 4,000 words – whichever is the longer. If I still want to carry on reading then I’ll email you and give you a timescale for finishing my review. If I don’t, then I’ll also let you know.

Third hurdle: If I then reach the stage where I feel I can’t finish the book, then I’ll contact you and give some brief feedback. This will mean that I can’t give the story more than two stars. I won’t publish the review but at least you’ll get some input. I don’t think there’s any value posting a review for a developing author that simply tells readers it’s not worth buying.

The finishing line: Only three hurdles. You’re through. I email you back my review – it will be 3,4 or 5 stars (see below). In it I will comment on plot, characters, setting, what grabbed me as a reader, quality of production, book cover and anything else that comes to mind. I’ll then publish it here on ‘Writing in Starlight’, Amazon, itunes, Goodreads and anywhere else (within reason) you would like me to.

Star guide:

***  Well worth a read. There may be some speedbumps in the story, but it has enough saving graces to leave you satisfied at the end of it.

****  Deserves to be read widely. A gripping story that entertains, disturbs, inspires or all three.

*****  The gold standard. I give Stephen King and Clive Barker five stars so if you achieve this level then your tale has a permanent place on my bookshelf.

Things I look for: quality writing, a great hook, compelling characters, originality (new slants on familiar themes are OK) and darkness, lots of darkness.

A cautionary word or two. Reasons you may not get over the first hurdle:

Too much backstory early on, unsympathetic characters, too much ‘tell’ as opposed to ‘show’, typos, formatting mistakes and poor grammar on the first page. OK, not everyone can afford an editor but at least you can run your text through Hemingway or Pro-writing aid – both online resources and free. For formatting, put your manuscript through Smashword’s meatgrinder – if you can get your ms through that then it’ll pass any test!

If none of this daunts you then send an email to  In your salutation, please call me by my name – it’s Tom by the way. Include the title of your book, blurb, author bio  and anything else that’s relevant. Finally, please consider becoming a subscriber – the signup form is on the sidebar – I need fresh souls to give me sustenance in my stygian existence.