“I know a lot of readers that support indie/self-published authors – myself included! I love thinking I’ll be the person to discover the next ‘big thing’. I think most of the reason reading has become ‘cool’ again is the variety now available.”
Kat – The Aussie Zombie 28 January 2012
How did you get started?
It took me a long time to get up the courage to publish my reviews publicly. I’m a rambler and don’t feel I’m the most articulate of reviewers, but finally last November I decided to start a blog and review on all those websites (I don’t think you need me to list them!). The biggest incentive was the lack of reviewers for my preferred genres – I know those horror/zombie/post-apocalyptic lovers are out there but we’re often pushed to the back of the queue and considered to be the ‘’school weirdoes’’.
How do you review a book? Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along?
I have to make notes as I read – it’s rare that I get more than half an hour at a time to read interrupted , or I lose my train of thought and forget some of the things I thought about while I was reading. To be honest, 80% of my notes don’t make it into my public reviews, the majority are things that I find interesting and I don’t know that anyone else would get the joke!
What are you looking for?
Great characters and I love unique story lines – something a bit different from the norm. I like long books, short books, short-story collections but I find it hard to say exactly what I’m looking for!
If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?
I’ve learnt to ignore grammar and spelling mistakes in self-published or small-press books. I make mistakes all the time, so why should I expect authors who can’t afford professional proof-readers and editors to be perfect? And sometimes the mistakes make me laugh – there’s an added bonus in that!
How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?
It really depends on the book and the storyline – if its complex it’s going to take me a lot longer. Also a lot of books don’t disclose the word count so it’s hard for me to translate word count into reading time.
How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?
I based it on the Goodreads rating system in terms of what a star means. I find Amazon ratings are a little too lenient. However the rating system on my blog almost always features ½ or ¾ ratings. There’s a huge difference between a 4 star and a 5 star read. 4 stars are books I really enjoyed, 5 stars are books that will stay with me for the rest of my life, so 4 ½ stars are books I love.
What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?
Don’t be scared to approach reviewers – we like receiving books to review, but we also love building relationships with authors. Even if a reviewer doesn’t have time to read your book, they may just know someone else that would love to read and review your book!
Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?
I have a lot of readers comment on my reviews and say they have added the book to their wishlists/to-be-read lists. There is a book that I read and reviewed in 2011 that almost all of my Goodreads friends have now either purchased and read or want to purchase and read!
My advice to authors on getting a “bad” review (hasten to add that might mean a perfectly honest, well written, fair review – just bad from the author’s point of view) is to take what you can from it and move on. Under no circumstances to “argue” with the reviewer – would you agree with that?
Be gracious – not everyone will adore your book (what a boring world it would be if we all loved the same things!), but if a reviewer is fair in their criticism, either thank them for their honesty, or don’t say anything. I don’t think I’ve ever seen (at least on blogs) a negative review that wasn’t unfounded – and most bloggers will try and pick out features of the book that may be more appealing to other readers, just not themselves. And whatever you do – don’t start up a rant about the reviewer!
I can’t even begin to imagine how much of slap in the face it would be to receive a negative review of your book when you have invested so much of your heart, soul and time into a book, but at the same time it’s important to remember how much time readers also invest in reading your book.
To be honest, a nasty comment by an author on an unflattering review will mostly result in readers avoiding the author and siding with the reviewer, particularly if their points are valid and well-presented.
We talk a lot about writing here on the blog, and possibly not enough about reading, which is after all why we’re all here. Why do you think people love reading. We’re seeing lots of statistics that say reading as a past-time is dying – do you think that’s the case?
Sadly for me, I have no readers in my personal life L. But those people who do read are incredibly passionate and dedicated to reading. It seems that in the past few years there has been a massive revival in reading which has been helped by e-books – I personally won’t carry a paper book around with me every day, but I’ve always got an e-book with me!
What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?
I’ve come across authors that think their book is perfect and above criticism. I understand wanting to be the next (insert incredibly successful author name here), but in writing, like any profession, it’s nearly impossible to be perfect from day one.
Interact with readers, invest the time (and money, sadly) to promote yourself, be accessible – you only need a few people on your side to make your book stand out from the crowd.
We’re told that the first page, paragraph, chapter, is absolutely key in making or breaking a book. Agents typically request only the first five pages of a novel, what do you think about that; if a book hasn’t grabbed you by the first five pages, do you put it down?
I’m a fickle reader. In saying that, I would never dismiss a book based on the first five pages – I may put it down and pick it back up again at another time, but I always try and finish a book. I’ve got one definite Did Not Finish in the last three years. Readers are generally optimistic and will push on as far as they can before abandoning a book.
Having an amazing opening chapter helps immensely – if you have a reader hooked by page 10, they’ll keep going.
Is there anything you will not review?
Christian / erotica / romance. I’m not a Christian, erotica makes me cringe and at twenty-old I know that most romances just aren’t true!
What do you think of the oft quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?
Bah! – I think most of the reason reading has become ‘cool’ again is the variety now available. Free/cheap e-books rock!
Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to Indie or self-published titles?
Definitely – I know a lot of readers that support indie/self-published authors – myself included! I love thinking I’ll be the person to discover the next ‘big thing’. Amanda Hocking is a great example in recent months – from self-published to one of the most popular YA releases in 2011 (and MacMillan no less!), and Rhiannon Frater from self-pub to Tom Doherty Associates, but they still have a very loyal ‘from the beginning’ fan-base.
Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can “filter” good from bad, asides from reviews?
Bloggers are the future of the publishing industry – they know exactly what’s going on in the reading world, the books they love, the books they hate, the books they want to review. Bloggers are incredibly honest – they aren’t afraid to say what they like and it only takes one blogger to write a great review and suddenly the book is all over the Internet!
End of Interview
Apart from visiting Kat’s very cool site, you can also follow her on twitter.
For a brief glimpse of Kat’s reading preferences…
As my reviews are predominantly for Zombie, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopia and Horror, these are my preferred genres. However, I will also consider: (in no particular order):
– General Fiction
– Historical Fiction
– Science Fiction
– YA Dystopia/Utopia
Not my cup of tea: