IndieView with Melleny Smith, reviewer at Abooktropolis

People read to escape the world they are in. Whether it be through contemporaries or fantasies. I read because I love seeing a movie play in front of my eyes. Reading is no longer just a pasttime to move time faster. It’s become escapism. 

Melleny Smith – 29 December 2016

About Reviewing

How did you get started?

It was last year. I was asked to do a review as part of a school assignment and when I finished the review I realized something. I realized that this was something that I wanted to do when ever I could

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

Honestly it depends. If it is a book that I read for pleasure then I only write my notes afterwards. But when it comes to reviewing a book I have requested or have been given then I take notes whilst reading because it allows for my opinions to be accurate.

What are you looking for?

I’m not really picky. But it does depend on the book that I am reading and what it has advertised through the blurb. If it is an author that I am familiar with then I have certain expectations. But if they are new to me then I kind of look at what other people say. So for example. If you advertise a kickass story then that’s something that I will look for. If you say the book contains an epic romance then it needs to have an epic romance.

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

I am a huge grammar police person. If the entire book doesn’t make sense I wont read it and it will probably get a bad review from me but if there is a specific reason as to why. For example, if a book has been translated, then I will be conscious of this and won’t look too closely at the grammar. But if there are only a few problems then I might just add that in my review, depending on the extent of it.

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

Okay… Umm… About 3-5 hours.. If I were to guess. I am an incredibly fast reader when it comes to books I enjoy. I read about one hundred pages in an hour.

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

Okay. I have to be honest. I have never really considered this closely but I have thought about it loosely. Basically 1 star means I couldn’t even get through the first 10 pages. 2 stars means that I managed to get past at least 50 pages but I hated every second of it. 3 stars means I have finished the book but it was pretty mediocre and not something that I would read again. 3.5 stars means that there was a moment or two where it was pretty good. 4 stars means that this is just amazing. The book was well written and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 4.5 stars means it is in my top books for the year. 5 stars means that it will probably be a book that I reread every year and I recommend it to everyone, every day.

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

Make sure your book sounds incredible. Look at books that are trending on Amazon and on the different book platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, etc). Look at what makes them unique. An amazing cover can go a long way. Put a little more effort into it than you actually want. I can’t even count how many times I have bought a book just for its cover.

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

No… But I do get a bigger response on Instagram when I feature a book. A lot people want to know what my thoughts were and so on.

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?

Yes I agree with that. The reviewer is more than likely to say exactly what they don’t like about it whilst saying what they found to be better points. If the author does want to ‘argue’, don’t. Instead ask the reader what you can do to better on your book or what you can look out for next time.

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?

Oh my gosh no. I think reading is evolving. Audiobooks have allowed more people to get into reading. They are now able to pick a book whilst they drive or are doing mindless work.

People read to escape the world they are in. Whether it be through contemporaries or fantasies. I read because I love seeing a movie play in front of my eyes. Reading is no longer just a pasttime to move time faster. It’s become escapism.

About Writing

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

Not sticking to the arc of their story. It’s not that often however but its something I notice the most when it comes to indie authors. You will have this amazing intro and couple of chapters and then the story will die down in middle. Then the part that is supposed to be climatic isn’t.

Another one is the love triangle trope. Like stop. If it doesn’t aid the story in any way other than making the main character conflicted, then cut it.

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?

Not always. I do believe that that statement is true but not for every book. Sometimes its the feeling that is super important. Because if an author falls flat halfway then they will lose the attention that the reader had.

Is there anything you will not review?

New Adult contemporaries that rely so much on sex to keep the book interesting. Like I get it. You don’t have your parents around every corner, judging you but damn calm your rabbit instincts.

About Publishing

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

Yes! There is way more appreciation for indie/self-published authors. From experience, one of my favorite books ever is an indie book. I think people have stopped thinking that indie/self-published authors are those who couldn’t make it.

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

Look at what kind of writing style/development the author has. If it’s visible that the person doesn’t have any room for improvement then it might not be a good thing. I also think that looking at the actual story is important. There is a huge market for YA anything. You’ll probably find that there are a lot of “bad” books and “good” books in that genre. Whilst someone who is writing a classic, will be refined and probably really good.

End of Interview:

To read Melleny’s reviews, visit Abooktropolis.

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