Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the winner of more than 20 literary accolades.
"Envoy of Jerusalem" won BEST BIOGRAPHY 2017, BEST CHRISTIAN HISTORICAL FICTION and BEST SPIRITUAL/RELIGIOUS FICTION 2017 from Book Excellence Awards, Readers Favorites and Feathered Quill Book Awards respectively.

"Rebels against Tyranny" took Silver (2nd Place) for HISTORICAL FICTION in the 2019 Feathered Quill Book Awards.

For a complete list of her awards see: http://helenapschrader.com

Friday, May 31, 2019

Awards and More

May brought recognition for two of my novels:

Rebels against Tyranny topped the list of finalists for the Chaucer Awards for Early Historical Fiction, winning "First in Category."

The Last Crusader Kingdom was a Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award in the Category Historical Fiction.



Rebels against Tyranny ended with the surrender of Frederick's deputies to the Ibelins, but King Henry de Lusignan senses the Emperor will not be able to accept defeat.The Emperor Strikes Back continues the story of Frederick II's war against the Ibelins....

Scheduled for release in August 2019, here is the draft cover blurb.

Emperor Frederick II has re-established Christian control of Jerusalem by means of a treaty with the Egyptian Sultan al-Kamil, but the Sultan brags that he will “purify” the Holy City and drive the Christians out as soon as the ten-year truce expires. The common people of the Holy Land show their contempt for the Emperor and his treaty by pelting him with offal, while the barons resist Frederick’s absolutism and demand rule of law. Filled with resentment and bitterness toward his impertinent subjects, the Emperor vows to destroy the family that embodies the independent spirit of Outremer: the Ibelins. While the Emperor's deputies will stop at nothing to fulfill their orders, the Ibelins fight back. But sometimes the price of defiance is defeat… 

Feedback is always welcome, so let me know what you think at hps_books@yahoo.com!

Here's the link to the complete list of winners for the Chaucer Award: https://www.chantireviews.com/2019/05/05/the-chaucer-book-awards-for-pre-1750s-historical-fiction-grand-prize-and-first-place-category-winners-2018-cibas/

Here's the link for the complete list of finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award:

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Chaucer Award for "Rebels Against Tyranny"

2018 Chanticleer International Book Awards were announced April 28, including the Chaucer Awards for Early Historical Fiction but the official results have not yet been posted on the website.

Rebels against Tyranny topped the list of finalists, and is a contender for the Grand Prize. I'll update this site when the final results are released.

In other news, my proposal for a textbook about the crusader states (Working Title: Beyond the Seas: The Story of the Crusader States) has passed the first of three hurdles at Routledge, the leading academic publisher for books about the crusades. It will now be submitted to five leading scholars for assessment. If they give it their approval, the proposal will go to the full editorial committee. All in all, I will not know if Routledge will accept the manuscript for another 4 to 6 months, but I am extremely pleased and excited to have made it this far. For more about Routledge see: https://www.routledge.com/

Last but not least, I am finalizing the last chapter and epilogue to The Emperor Strikes Back. That means, so far, I'm still on track to release the second book in the Civil War in the Crusader States series by August or September of this year.



Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Boy of the Agoge -- in Polish

A Boy of the Agoge has been translated into Polish and released in Poland. Here are the links for those of you who read Polish:


In addition, A Heroic King is in the hands of a Greek publisher who is assessing its suitability for the Greek market. So far his feed-back is positive, but this is only the first step as the costs of translation are very high and no publisher will incur them lightly, so there are many stages to the decision to go ahead. Still, it's a first step and I would be thrilled beyond measure to see my Leonidas books published in Greek. The short-term goal would be a release of A Heroic King in Greece during the 2,500th anniversary of Thermopylae 2020.

The cover of The Emperor Strikes Back is finished!

Hope you find it intriguing! Comments and feedback are welcome, as there's still time for changes.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

"Rebels against Tyranny" wins Two Literary Accolades

This month opened with the announcement that Rebels against Tyranny had won Silver (2nd Place) for Historical Fiction in the Feathered Quill Book Awards 2019.  It ended with the announcement that Rebels against Tyranny had been awarded a BRAG medallion. Here's what the judges for both awards had to say:

Feathered Quill Book Awards Judges' Comments.
  • I remember reading this for review.  I was blown away then and still am. 
  • The research that went into this book was amazing.
  • The tale was clear, easy to understand and told in a way that brought the reader back to the 6th Crusade.
  • Content/plot receives a perfect score 50 out of 50
For the complete list of winners visit:  https://featheredquill.com/2019-winners/

  • This was an absolutely outstanding novel. The characters were fascinating, and their story compelling and well written. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
  • Like the writing style, characters are so vivid and well rounded. Book flows well, exciting page after page.
  • I found this title an excellent and engaging read from an oft-overlooked perspective, the Crusades from the point of view of the Christians ruling outside an Islamic controlled Jerusalem. Well researched and innovative subject matter.
Visit the BRAG website at: https://www.bragmedallion.com/award-winning-books/#!/historical-fiction/author/helena-p-schrader/

Last but not least, Mikhail and I finalized the cover of The Emperor Strikes Back.

Hope you find it intriguing! Comments and feedback are welcome, as there's still time for changes.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

"Rebels Against Tyranny" Short-Listed for the Chaucer Award

This month, January 2018, Chanticleer announced the semi-finalists for the 2018 Chaucer Award. Rebels against Tyranny is just one of 11 titles on the short list. A great honor! For the complete list of semi-finalists visit the Chanticleer Book Reviews Website here

For more about Rebels against Tyranny including reviews from respected review sites such as Kirkus and Blue Ink visit: Rebels against Tyranny Page

Progress on the second book in the series, The Emperor Strikes Back, continues. I am now about two-thirds of the way through the rough draft and on the whole comfortable with the way things are shaping up. I greatly appreciate the in-put and advice of my "real-time" test-reader, who will remain nameless until such time as she/he gives me permission to "go public" with it. 

The cover is also underdevelopment. Here's the draft as it now stands:

I was also delighted to take part in a live broadcast of an interview with one of the world's leading experts (not to say THE leading expert) on the archaeology of the crusades. You can find the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7zOekawDAs

That's all for this month. Thanks for checking in and I'll report back at the end of February.


Friday, December 28, 2018

Closing out 2018

Dear loyal followers and friends,

This is not only the last entry of this year but will also be the last entry of this blog in the format I have used to date.  Going forward, I will make only a single entry at the end of each month with a summary of the month's activities. I will provide a short up date on:

  1. Works in Progress  -- so in the immediate future The Emperor Strikes Back: Frederick II's War against his Vassals and Beyond the Seas: The Story of the Crusader States
  2.  Conversions: This will address e-book or audiobook formatting for already published works.
  3. Social Media Activities: This will provide links to entries on my other blogs or to quora posts. 
  4. Publications: This will provide information about other publications such as in the Medievalist Magazine or the like.  
  5. Miscellaneous: For anything I find worth sharing that doesn't fit into the above categories.
I hope you will find these summaries useful in the future, and thank you for being loyal readers in the past.

All the best for 2019!

Helena P. Schrader

Friday, December 21, 2018

Reflections on Today’s Book Market: Of Reviews and Best Sellers

As the year closes, I thought I would share with my followers some things I’ve learned about the creative writing industry in the last year. I do not mean this as a rant, but rather a serious reflection on where we are today and as food for thought for readers as well as my fellow writers. 


At the start of this year (2019) more than 6,000 books were being published each day -- yes, day -- in the United States. That included print, ebook and audiobooks released by both commercial publishers and self-publishing authors. Of those, based on past years (no stats yet for this year) 15% of those books were novels. That's 900 new novels being published every single day.

Traditionally publishers accept on average just 1% of all books submitted to them. They make money on just one out of ten. That means they lose money on 90% of all their releases. 

Most self-published novels "sell" about 50 copies. Most of those copies were bought by the author to give away to friends and family.


Let me start with the subject of reviews. There was a time when book-reviews were written by select “literary critics.” These people didn’t need any specific qualification, but they did have to have a way with words and the ability to write prose that was fit to print in a reputable newspaper or magazine.  They tended to be a bit “snobby” and “high-brow” -- literary critics and reviewers, journalists, professors and teachers of literature, librarians, and book-store owners. 

With the advent of Amazon's “reader reviews” and the even more casual “rating” (without a whiff of justification) on Goodreads, those days are gone. The professionals along with their unique biases and prejudices no longer dominate the market. In their place are “reader reviews.” These, at least in theory, reflect popular opinion – or one would think. 

The problem with them, however, is two-fold. First, the quality leaves a great deal to be desired. Far too often they boil down to nothing more than “I didn’t like this book” or “I loved this book” without a trace of analysis or explanation. This is particularly pronounced in the case of Goodreads ratings where a reader (or non-reader) can just slap one or more stars without a hint of what was going through their heads. 

Second, and even more serious, however, is that there is now a market for reviews. It is possible to buy reviews for as little as $10. Indeed, you can buy 100 reviews for $1,000. These 100 reviews are guaranteed – but there is no guarantee that the reviewer will actually read the book first. 

True, they will have to download the book to be a “verified purchaser” for Amazon, but with most ebooks priced below $5, a reviewer still nets at least $5 a book. If they concentrate on free books, they can make the full $10 per book. Just think how many books you can download in an hour, a morning, a day? Clearly, this is a great source of supplemental income for anyone on welfare, social security, or simply a low-paying day job. It just doesn’t help inform readers about the content or quality of the book reviewed.

Yes, the reviewers are obligated to write a review, but they can get away with a single sentence that they can use for every book. Something like: “This is AWESOME. I can’t WAIT to read the next book by this author.” (Note, no need to even change the name of “the author” for each review. Amazon is littered with reviews of this type.)

If the reviewer is a little more sophisticated, they can turn the cover blurb into a review. Example: “This is sensitive literary fiction at its best. A mixture of insight and humor, this book is guaranteed to both educate and amuse. The author is bound to make a name for herself as a 21st century Jane Austin.” Lovely, just what the author has put on the back cover, and the reader still has no second opinion, much less a qualified second opinion.


In my opinion, a more disturbing development in the publishing industry is the changes that have altered the definition of “best-seller.” Before the days of print-on-demand and ebooks, a book needed to sell 30,000 (hard) copies of a single edition at prices generally between twenty and thirty dollars in order to qualify as a “best seller.” Today, it is not the absolute number of sales that a book logs but rather the title’s “sales rank” on Amazon that earns a book the rubric of “best seller.” This has a number of implications -- most of which appear to have gone unnoticed by readers.

At one level, obviously, the overall Amazon sales rank still reflects large sales volumes. Although the absolute number may vary on any given day, on average the overall #1 best seller on Amazon will have sold 5,000 copies on that one day alone. Books ranked at or near 1,000 will have sold 100 books that day, those at 10,000 15 books a day, at 50,000 2-3 books and at 100,000 one book. 

However, there are two problems with these numbers that make them qualitatively different from the traditional method of counting “best-sellers.” First, Amazon's numbers are daily numbers not cumulative. Theoretically at least, a book might be a “flash in the pan” that sells enough copies one day to rank in the top 100 books, yet never sell another copy thereafter. Second, and more important, the Amazon sales ranks for ebooks includes not just sales but free downloads as well. There is a very serious difference between a sale and a free download that is obscured by this methodology. If someone spent $20 to $30 on a book, they were clearly seriously interested and very likely to read it.  Downloading a "freebie" on the other hand can be done on a whim (or a request) without anyone ever really planning to read the book. 

The problem is compounded by Amazon's categories. The creation of categories is undoubtedly useful – or should be – in helping readers find books of interest to them. The broad categories conform to common conventions for categorizing books whether in libraries or book stores: fiction vs non-fiction, then sub-categories by topic for non-fiction (biography, business and finance, cooking, self-help, history, religion, politics, parenting etc.) and by genre for fiction (mystery, romance, science fiction, historical, thriller, “adult” and children’s fiction etc.) Comparing books in similar categories also makes perfectly good sense. Why should I care if my book about dog grooming is under-performing compared to cookbooks or the latest political thriller? 

The problem is that Amazon has created so many sub-genres and sub-sub-genres that the value the rankings has been watered down to meaninglessness. Let’s take an example. Suppose you have written a dystopian novel about two teenage vampires who fall in love and you keep all the love scenes very “clean and wholesome” because these vampires discover Jesus. You have now written a book that fits into the Amazon categories of romance, teen romance, “clean and wholesome” romance but also Christian, vampire, and dystopian novels. Indeed, you invented the category of “dystopian, Christian, vampire, clean and wholesome, teen romance.” My guess is you will not have a great deal of competition in this category, so even if you only sell one copy to your mother, if there is no other book in this category you can become a “#1 best seller”!

Or let’s take this example a step farther. Maybe there are already 99 other authors who write in your niche genre, and they all “sell” more copies of their books than you do. You can still bill yourself as a “best-selling” author because you’re in the top 100.

I put “sell” in quotation marks, however, because free downloads count. So, if you price your book at $0.00, then you can personally download it thousands of times – as many times as it takes to become the #1 in your niche category – without one single other person (whether mother or lover) downloading - much reading and liking - your book. That’s pretty awesome, don’t you think? You can make yourself a #1 bestseller without spending a single cent or persuading any other person to read it!

One cannot blame authors for giving books away – especially if no one is willing to actually spend money on them! Nor can one blame desperate authors for downloading thousands of copies of their books personally – if no one else will -- in an effort to push themselves higher in the Amazon ratings. 

The problem is not unethical authors, but rather readers obsessed with “best-selling” books rather than quality. Think about it.

Happy New Year!

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