Reviewer IndieView with Liz Ellyn

Liz Ellyn PNG

While it is fun when a book sucks you into the story in the first page, I don’t ever define my opinion based on such criteria. I realize that sometimes it isn’t until the second half of the book that I fall in love with a story. 

Liz Ellyn – 15 February 2016

About Reviewing

How did you get started?

I’ve been a writer for over 20 years, mostly legal material. About 10 years ago, I finally had enough time in my schedule to start reading for pleasure, which quickly turned into a reading obsession. The more I read, the more I wanted to share my enthusiasm for books I love.

How do you review a book? Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along?

As I read, I dog-ear or highlight pages that have poignant quotes or some other memorable moment. After finishing a book, I immediately write my review because I want to capture my initial feelings about a book. I generally go back the next day and revise my reviews to ensure that each review conveys my thoughts appropriately.

What are you looking for?

I read all kinds of romance: historical, suspense, humorous, sad, BDSM, erotic, cowboy, sports, paranormal, and everything in between. I’m basically looking to be entertained. I’m not looking for classically powerful literary works.  Specifically, I seek characters that I feel passionately about (love or hate), a well-paced and captivating plot structure, tension and heartbreak that make my stomachache, and a well deserved happily ever after.

If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?

I laugh it off when best selling authors have the occasional mistake. I find the mistakes to be more offensive and distracting when I don’t care for the story.

How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?

My reading rate varies based on my love of a book. In fact, I use that as a guide for rating books. It probably takes me 5 to 6 hours to get through a book I like.

How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?

It took me more than six months of continuous reviewing to feel comfortable with my standards for rating books. I do not rate or review books below a 3 star because I refuse to bash a writer’s hard work publically. If the author requested the review, I will share with them my reasoning and make suggestions.

Here’s my rating scale:

5  I loved the book, couldn’t put the book down, would like to read again, would gift it to a friend

4  I enjoyed the book a lot, but not shouting from the rooftops about it

3  I liked the story, but it had some issues or missing something

What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?

Choose reviewers that read that genre often because they most likely will enjoy that type of material. Be clear about time frames and the desired date a review is to be published. I set a schedule for my reading. If I am contacted further in advance it is more likely that I will have time to fit a book into my schedule.

Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?

I often receive a “thank you” email from authors, particularly when they find my reviews to be insightful or notably amusing. I enjoy when readers “like” my posts or leave comments.

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?

I absolutely agree. Fighting a bad review usually doesn’t make the author look good. Unfortunately, not everyone will enjoy the book.

About Reading

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 pastime is dying – do you think that’s the case?

I’m not going to argue with statistics. I believe the key to making people want to read is helping readers find books that they will enjoy. Fiction readers are out for entertainment value and non-fiction readers are out to increase their knowledge base. Readers should choose books they want to read rather than books they think they should read.

About Writing

What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?

Writing misleading book blurbs leads to bad reviews.

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?

While it is fun when a book sucks you into the story in the first page, I don’t ever define my opinion based on such criteria. I realize that sometimes it isn’t until the second half of the book that I fall in love with a story. If an author asks for a review and I agree, I ALWAYS read the entire book before formulating my opinion.

Is there anything you will not review?

I will not write a review for any book that I would award less than 3 stars.

About Publishing

What do you think of the oft-quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?

My response is that the crème always rises to the top. Good books with equally if not better marketing support will still end up on best-seller lists. Authors that receive poor reviews will eventually vade into oblivion.

Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to indie or self-published titles?

I think the ease of making self-published books available online has made the distinction between indie authors and traditional authors less significant. When choosing a book, I rarely if not ever check for the name of the publisher. However, I personally have a reverence for the successful indie author.

Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can ‘filter’ good from bad, aside from reviews?

First, I would like to dispel the notion of good and bad books. I would prefer to sort books by likeability or popularity – let’s face it this is all about individual opinions. I fear that sorting by any other measure could impinge on freedom of speech and result in big brother book banning.

End of Interview:

To read Liz’s reviews, visit her site.

7 responses to “Reviewer IndieView with Liz Ellyn

  1. Dear Liz Ellyn,
    I enjoyed reading about your reviewing methods and interests.

  2. Andrea Kennedy

    Hello Liz Ellyn,

    I really appreciate you sharing this information. I’m thinking of starting to review the books I’m reading, just as a past time. I think your theory on how you rate, is fantastic and respectful. Thank you for the insight.

  3. Very interesting stuff, thanks!

  4. This post has made me realise the importance of finishing a book. Very often I stop halfway through if a book doesn’t appeal to me… I do see the point, though, in carrying on reading in case the second half manages to draw you in the story. In the same way that a film with an awkward beginning can make sense much later on…

  5. Good common sense, especially reading the whole book but I think the division of fiction as entertainment and non-fiction for facts is simplistic. However, thank you very much, Liz, for orientating me about reviews.

  6. It’s good to see reviewers who understand that not every story can grab you on the first page. It kind of makes the standards pretty high for the rest of the book, and because of that the slower parts might seem REALLY slow. But also, wow! I have to say that I can’t imagine how someone could read a whole book in 5 to 6 hours. The fastest I’ve read a book is two days. I guess if you’re a slow reader you’ll probably have a tough time reviewing books. Thanks for the post!