Fifty Shades of Telling it Like it Is – Meet the Reviewers Part Deux

I’m back with the reviewers for Part Deux of the interview. What do they have to say about self-publishing and the problem of sockpuppetry? Read on to find out.

  • Question #7 – The ease at which writers can self-publish has created a flood of books available for either free or for next to nothing. The filter through which manuscripts passed (i.e. publishers and agents) is no long there. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Cat Alley

  • From a writers stand point it is a good thing… from a readers it means more is available and a lot at much cheaper price. But what I am also finding is a lot of editing errors. If we continue this way then the writer has to find good editors. I understand that no one can be a perfect editor, but that is why you have readers before you publish your book. It is a reflecting of you as a writer, take more pride in your work.

DelSheree Gladden

  • I think the good outweighs the bad. Yes, you get the occasional book that is atrocious, but for the most part, you get such a wide variety of stories and voices. I enjoy being able to read good stories and not being told what constitutes a good story by publishers. Sometimes they get it wrong.

PW

  • From a writer’s point of view, the ease of self publishing is good, however, the author needs to take extra care about typos and editing because it can make or bread their book if a reader has to constantly deal with typos. A few don’t matter, but a lot can jar the story. Editing becomes critical, because you want to make sure character names don’t become mixed up, or situations in the storylines get confused.
  • Livia Ellis
  • Question #8 – It seems as if reviews are one of the only ways to separate the unreadable detritus from the true gems. Do you think because of this too much emphasis has been placed on the importance of reviews?

Cat Alley

  • Not at all. I think they are very important, but not as important as your beta readers and your editors. Reviewers only help sell it after.

DelSheree Gladden

  • I think reviews are a great tool in deciding whether or not to take a chance on a new book, but most readers still go with their gut on a book regardless of reviews. Maybe if they see all ones and twos they’ll pass it by, but for the most part, either the book will pique a readers interest enough to buy, or it won’t. Reviews give a reader confidence to purchase a book they’re interested in more than tell them which book to buy in my opinion.

PW

  • I agree with Cat that a beta readers and editors are critical. The only thing a reviewer is going to do is give an opinion of the book, which can help some people decide to read a book or not.
  • Livia Ellis
  • Question #9 – Can you judge a book by it’s cover?

Cat Alley

  • The cover is what always attracts people at the beginning. For me that is the first attraction, then i read the back and if it sounds interesting I get it. It is a lot like meeting a new person. You instantly judge if you want to meet them by there looks, then you introduce and make small talk, if a spark is there you learn more about them.

DelSheree Gladden

  • A great cover definitely helps, but it is by no means a guarantee of quality. Two of the most eye catching covers I’ve seen this year turned out to be the two books I gave the lowest ratings to.

PW

  • Ususally the cover is the first thing to catch a reader’s eye, then the blurb about the book. The blurb will actually be the selling point once the reader picks up/looks at the book after seeing the cover.
  • Livia Ellis
  • Question #10 – There have been a lot of reports in the media recently about bogus “sockpuppet” reviews. Does this activity diminish your status as reviewers or make what you do that much more important?

Cat Alley

  • umm.. I don’t watch the news or really listen to it so I have no clue what a “sockpuppet” reviewer is, but it doesn’t sound good.

DelSheree Gladden

  • I think the quality of the sock puppet reviews show through and don’t convince readers as much as the person posting them hopes they will. When someone is posting dozens and dozens of reviews because they’re being paid for them, not because they actually read the books … well, it’s hard to be that creative and write quality, meaningful reviews. They all start to look the same and readers pick up on that.

PW

  • I think that bogus ‘sockpuppet’ reviews hurt legit reviewers as a reader may not trust them in the future. I also feel that this ultimely hurts the authors, as it may give readers the impression that this is the only way they can get someone to read their book.

Livia Ellis

  • Final Question – Have you ever started to read a book with the intention of reviewing it, and it was so bad you just abandoned it before you wrote it up?

Cat Alley

  • I have always finished it if I have been asked to review it published, might not have been a great review but I have a very hard time just abandoning a book… I always hope that it will get better. The few books I have come across so far that has been very hard to finish have been beta books where I could sit down with the author and discuss reasons why it was hard to read, see if it is something that can be fixed or not. But I have had one beta book I could not finish. I am sure it had nothing to do about the book itself, just was not my cup of tea and I could not relate at all to the characters.

DelSheree Gladden

  • I have a weird compulsion to finish a book no matter how bad it is. There is only one book I started reading in my entire life and did not finish. That was back in high school and it still bugs me. However, I have really wanted to quit reading books. With books I review, I try very hard to find at least a few positive comments, but I do say as nicely as possible what the book’s failings were.

Samantha Truesdale

  • I always finish a book and review it if I have told the author I would do so. In the couple of cases that I didn’t particularly care for the book, I try to leave a constructive review. There is only one book I can think of that I absolutely could not bring myself to finish, and that was the second I’m the Shades of Grey series. Thank you so much for doing this! It has been fun!

PW

  • I always finish a book I get for review. I may not like the book, but try to give some positive remark if possible. If I end up reading an author with two books I don’t like, I just don’t get their books to read. It’s not fair to the author. I have actually not finished a couple of print books because I just could not deal with errors or storyline, but they were not something I was going to be reviewing.

Livia Ellis

  • Final Final Question… anything you’d like to add?

PW

  • This has been fun and I look forward to the blog. Thanks for the questions and getting to meet other reviewers.

Samantha Truesdale

  • Thank you so much for doing this! It has been fun!

DelSheree Gladden

  • Thanks for the fun questions! Can’t wait to see the blog next week!

Cat Alley

  • I want to thank you for taking the time to ask me what I think in general of my process. I can’t wait to see your blog!!

Fifty Shades of Telling it Like it Is – Meet the Reviewers Part One

Your mother loves your book. Your sister, your aunt, your best friend, and that guy that is desperately trying to get you into bed all think you are the next Hemingway. So you publish your book. Then it gets reviewed.  Someone who doesn’t know you and has no vested interest in your happiness, loves your book. Five whole stars from a stranger! Or, to your utter amazement, someone that neither knows nor loves you,  thinks your seven hundred page tome on the joys of accounting, thinks it stinks.Who are these people and where the heck to they get off not loving your book? Meet the reviewers in the first of a two part interview.

Livia Ellis

  • Question 1 – Who are you people? Why do you like making writers cry? Don’t you know we’re entitled to the sort of fame and glory that comes along naturally when we figure out how to self-publish on the internet?

Cat Alley

  • Cat alley avid reader and big mouth…lol. I am a single mother of a 3-year-old boy; I work full time and read every time I get the chance in between. I don’t think I have made a writer cry, ever… or anyone for that matter… at least not in years. The majorities of the writers I have read for deserve all sorts of fame and glory for their work.

Samantha Truesdale

  • Samantha Truesdale. A mom of 2 boys and a total book nerd. I work part time, and I wish there were more hours in the day so I would have more time to read!

DelSheree Gladden

  • DelSheree Gladden…writer, reviewer, reader of just about everything, mom of two very smart and very silly kiddos, married to the most supportive husband ever, and dental hygiene student. That last one is currently eating up the majority of my life!

PW

  • I’m a mom, former active duty Marine and Executive Assistant.

Livia Ellis

  • Question 2 – How and why did you start doing book reviews? I know from my personal experience, the first few times I wrote book reviews was because I was very angry I spent good money on a really terrible book.

Cat Alley

  • I have been a heavy reader for many, many years. Within the last year, I have made close friends with those who are writers. That is when I learned the importance of writing a review on Amazon. I than joined a couple of groups on Facebook where I could beta read and published read/review. For me, it was a way to get free books and help someone at the same time. After doing that for a while and needing a hobby, I decided to start my own blog with my reviews. I have only been doing it for a few months in a blog, but I have been enjoying getting my thoughts out there for people to read…good or tastefully bad.

Livia Ellis

  • I’ve thought about doing reviews, but I’m worried that as a writer there might be a lot of backlash. As writers do, I’ve spent a lot of time reading what’s out there in my genre. I just have two things to say – It’s a Japanese kimono, not a Japanese Komono and a wench is a woman and a winch is used for lifting heavy items. I fear I would just be too mean. How do you keep it nice?

Cat Alley

  • It is hard; I have a very sarcastic voice even when I am trying to be nice. It takes me time. If I don’t like a book and I know the stars are going to be low, I always try to state why they got the stars they did without giving away anything about the story line, I don’t like spoilers. I have given zero stars before. I have also given three stars, because I didn’t like its contents … even though the story was OK. And if I see a grammar issue, I will point it out, because they have to be big for me to even notice them… so I point them out…
  • Lol… and that is funny…about the wench…

DelSheree Gladden

  • I actually started doing book reviews after reading Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus.” It was such a fantastic book, I had to tell people about it. My review blog started out as just a place for me to talk about books I was reading, then it became a serious effort a few months later when review request started coming in.

Samantha Truesdale

  • I have always loved to read. In elementary school, while other kids were playing on the playground, I was in the corner with a book. In January of this year, I had a baby and am now home all the time. I used reading as a way to fill my time and decided that if I was going to spend so much time reading, I should look into doing reviews. I found that there was not much to it so I created a blog.
    I am really enjoying this new chapter in my life. The way I look at it, authors have given me so much in life just by writing books. This is one way for me to give back to them. I know it can help tremendously!

PW

  • I started because I love to read and the amount of money I was spending on books, I decided to start reviewing when I noticed a request for reviewers from one of the online sites. The big draw for me was the free books. I still spend over $100 a month for books, but it is not close to what it used to be. Another advantage is that I get to read authors I may not have looked at before.

Livia Ellis

  • Question #3 – where do you get your books from? What is your preferred method to acquire a book?

Cat Alley

  • There is a site, eReadrIQ.com. They send me an email daily with free books from Amazon. Other then that, I get them for beta reading or reviewing. I read all my books on my Kindle. I do however have a few authors that I will buy their kindle vs. but also buy a paperback for my personal library.

Samantha Truesdale

  • I get a fair amount of books from Amazon. I would say at least half of the books I receive are in exchange for an honest review. I also receive quite a few from Goodreads first reads giveaways.

DelSheree Gladden

  • I have several small press publishers that regularly send me their new books and put my into touch with the author. I really like this setup because I know the quality of the publishers.

PW

  • I too subscribe for the email re free books from Amazon. Of course there are free books I review, but I have purchased a few. There are a few authors I buy instead of review since I email back and forth with them sometimes. I also buy books at thrift stores, online, and at B&N. The book club I belong to also has a book exchange.

Livia Ellis

  • Question #4 – do you have a preference? Is there anything on your “I will not read this, not even if the paid me” list?

Cat Alley

  • Anything scary or historical I won’t read. Other than that, I like a synopsis of the book. I have learned in this process to ask for those as I have gotten books before that I have not liked and had I had the synopsis, I would have known that from the beginning.

Samantha Truesdale

  • I will read almost anything. I’m not a huge fan of sci-fi or history, but I have still read them.

DelSheree Gladden

  • My first love is YA. I’ll read just about any subgenre of YA, but I am a pretty eclectic reader. The only things I will NOT read are erotics, self-help, and political books.

PW

  • I don’t read a lot of historical unless I really like the blurb, I prefer not to review YA though I do read a few books. I am a fairly eclectic reader with a bent toward erotica, sci-fi, and fantasy.

Livia Ellis

  • Question #5 – I’m guessing you are asked to read/review more books than you could ever get through. What is the best approach a writer can use when asking you to read/review their book?

PW

  • I have reviewed a few books for a couple of authors I am friendly with, but I don’t do it often. Two of the three sites I review for has lists that the reviewers can choose from and the other will send a book depending on the number they get, though a couple of times I had to request a different book, as I had reviewed for another site. One of the sites though, we can follow the entire series if we want, which sometimes gets a small backlog if a lot come in at once. One site allows authors to request a specific reviewer if they want to. I have also been asked to review a couple of print books through these sites as well. One thing an author needs to understand when asking me to review a book is that I will give an honest assessment of what I think regardless of my relationship with them.

Cat Alley

  • I am still fairly new at this so I don’t have a long list of people I read for nor am I in that many groups to obtain a large amount of books. So I tend to have free time for my own interests in reading. When someone approaches me for the first time I usually want to know how they found me, how much they write and what they write. Then I decide if I want to read for them. Usually once, I read for someone, I get repeat performances…

DelSheree Gladden

  • Be thorough. I’m much more likely to be interested in a book if they send me a summary of the book and a little info about themselves. If all I get is a title, and I have to go look it up on Amazon to see what the book is about, I’m much less likely to review. I’m incredibly busy with school and family that I don’t always have time to do that. Plus, my blog is booked six months out, so I’m being very selective lately.

Livia Ellis

  • Question #6 – What isn’t going to work? What advice would you give to an author that wants a review?

Cat Alley

  • Don’t make the reader pay for the book, if you are working with a new reader and you have a series and on book 2, offer the first book so the reviewer can get caught up. (I personally will turn away an offer if it is in the middle of a series without reading the others), and be nice.. no one is perfect. Ask a lot of questions from the reviewer about your book. That way if they did not like it, you can find out why, if it is truly something about your book, or if that person just doesn’t like “those kind” of books. Some people may not explain why they do not like a book. If you are looking for a beta reader, once they are done reading, schedule some face-to-face time with them… so you can get a true feeling of what they thought about your book. It is always good to have 3-5 beta readers you trust. (I personally like to beta read more then read/reviewing)

Samantha Truesdale

  • Don’t pay for reviews! Know that you don’t have to give away swag or anything to get reviews, although a copy of the book in exchange for a review is nice. There are plenty of readers out there that want to review your book just to do it. Be prepared because there is inevitably going to be someone that doesn’t give you that great of a review. It doesn’t mean that your book is a flop, it just means someone didn’t understand it like you meant them to.

DelSheree Gladden

  • Offering a free book in exchange for a review is expected, at least for me. The only books I buy are when it’s an author I know personally and want to support. As far as advice to authors, offer a giveaway along with a review. This is a great way to increase exposure and get more comments.

PW

  • I agree with Cat about series books. Reviewers like me expect the free book but that is all. Samantha is right about payment, I feel that puts the reviewer in a conflict especially if they don’t like the book. One rule of thumb, is always give constructive comments in that case. Don’t take it personally. Sometimes authors will do giveaways on blogs, then it is always nice if the person winning does a review as well.

Cat Alley

  • Thank you PW. I agree with all you said. Me personally I know a lot of authors that do contests and give a ways. It is a great way to get people involved. I personally do not participate as I don’t want to take the chance of getting the book away from someone who has not read it and who can become a potential fan. But that is a personal preference.

How to Query a Book Review Blogger by Anne R. Allen

Dear Readers (can I write dear readers without sounding twee? I don’t think so, but anyhow…) –
Earlier this week I had a bit of a professional crisis wondering how the heck a little ant like me could make it to the top of the publishing heap when those who had made it were making a concerted effort to be jerks. My post about the skulduggery of R.J. Ellory reached more than a few people who were outraged, but also had been around enough to know that he is just one bad example in a world filled with people that truly to go out of their way to help others.
Anne R. Allen, author, blogger, speaker, and all around decent human being that would never write a spiteful review of anyone’s work, commented on my post, and added a link. The topic, one which I had been discussing at length with another writer that is struggling as much as I am, how to query a book review blogger. The very thing I’d been biting my lip and scrunching my nose trying to figure out. And voila – in the way that only these things can happen serendipitously, the answer was presented to me.
I have cut and paste Anne’s recommendations below. I do encourage you to have a look at the full post. We may have Anne around later, so please feel free to leave your thoughts, impressions, and questions.

How do you find interested book bloggers?

The best way is to check similar books in your genre—especially those that have been recently released. Do a search for those titles with the word “review” and read as many reviews as you can. Make a list of the reviewers you like and read the review policy.

Almost no blogger will take all types of books. Some only read traditionally-published paper books; others want only indie ebooks for Kindle. Some specialize in Nook. They almost always have specific genre requests, so read carefully, and always follow them. Even if the blogger agrees to do a review outside their genre, you won’t reach the right readers. People don’t go to a chick lit review site to discover the latest zombie gore-fest.

How do you approach them?

You should make initial contact with a query—the same way you approach other gatekeepers like literary agents and editors. This means you send a professional letter—not a Tweet or wall post on Facebook.

Here are some general rules for scoring a review:

  • Read the guidelines carefully.
  • Then, um, follow the guidelines carefully.
  • Never send an unsolicited book: query first.
  • Don’t query with books outside the prescribed genre. Personalize the query.
  • Keep queries short and intriguing.
  • Don’t take it personally if they turn you down. Reading takes a lot of time and most of them are swamped.
  • Understand the review is for the READER, not the writer, so negative reviews happen.
  • If you get a less than stellar review, mourn in private and move on. NEVER respond to a negative review.

Last November I interviewed popular childrens’ book blogger Danielle Smith of There’s a Book, and she gave some great advice on how to get your book reviewed by a blogger. She says the best way to approach a book blogger is to keep your query professional, but show some personality.

Reviewer Danielle Smith’s guidelines for authors:
  1.  Make sure you address the blogger by name
  2. Include a two to four sentence synopsis—no longer
  3. Keep personal information to a minimum. And don’t guilt-trip.
  4. Attach an image of the book cover
  5. Give the age range of the intended audience
  6. Include the page count (for print books)
  7. Provide the publication date and expected time frame of when you’d like to see the review posted for scheduling purposes.
  8. Don’t ask for a review outside the blogger’s genre
  9. Don’t query if you don’t have a website or a blog. (That screams “unprofessional” to a blogger.)

In other words, treat the book blogger like a professional and she will reciprocate.

If you want to know more about book bloggers and how to approach them, Danielle Smith is leading a panel at the Central Coast Writers’ Conference with several Book Bloggers, including Amy Riley of My Friend Amy, and Pam Van Hylckama Vleig aka Bookalicious Pam who is also an agent with San Francisco agency Larsen-Pomada.

And if you want to read some genuine, not-paid-for Amazon reviews, here are some hilarious ones for a set of Bic pens.

How about you, scriveners? Would you ever consider paying for reviews? Does this change your opinion of John Locke? Do you read book review blogs?