Reviewer IndieView with Marie Blanchet of Marie Does Book Reviews

I think that people love reading because people love stories. Whether they come in the form of a book, a movie, a video game, or gossip around the water fountain, stories are an integral part of ours lives as humans, and storytelling is an art as old as our specie. It’s not going away any time soon. 

Marie Blanchet – 18 May 2017

About Reviewing

How did you get started?

I was looking for ways to make a name for myself in the internet writing spheres in preparation for the launch of my book this coming December. My boyfriend suggested that I start a book reviewing blog, since I’ve been casually reviewing books already on my tumblr for a while.

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 tend to read books all at once, in a handful of days. Then I write down my immediate thoughts on them, taking into consideration the comments that I made out loud while I was reading.

What are you looking for?

I’m looking for books that give me a great reading experience, and that comes down to trust. As a queer, feminist reader, I tend to read a lot of mainstream books while keeping myself braced, so to speak, for the moment where the author might let me or the characters down with a stupid, cliché or downright offensive plotline. Obviously reading a book while distancing myself emotionally from it isn’t the best way to enjoy it.

When an author, either because I already know them, or through their writing, proves to me that I have nothing to worry about, and that they have my back, then I can get fully engaged, and that’s when the experience of reading their book becomes magical.

In the end, although I prefer SFF, any book can be a good book when the author gains my trust.

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

A novel with less than stellar grammar is not a novel fit for publication. I will tell the author this, but considering that the rest of the book is good, it’s a relatively easy problem to fix. All they need is a copy editor, and I can even rec them some.

Generally, I find that my tolerance deeply depends on the situation. Listen, I read more fanfics than I read books, and have since I was a teen writing in a second language among a group of other people doing the same. When it comes to an author’s first self-published novel, or an unpublished one, that is obviously a work of love, and the plot truly is engaging and unique? I am greatly forgiving. I will suggest getting an editor before going any further, but it won’t stop me from reading and reviewing all the other aspects of the novel aside from the grammar.

I have, however, also read books with atrocious grammar that have won prizes. And when it comes to full grown men who forgo punctuation because they think that it will make their pretentious post-apocalyptic drama better? And these books somehow get published? I have no patience for that. Never ever. If you should know better, then do better. If it got through the publication process, AND an editor, then I will assume that the lack of grammar is on purpose, and I will not hold back when reviewing your stuff. Fair warning.

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

Not super long. A few days? When I start a book, I tend to read non-stop until I’m done.

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

It came about from my desire to have a coherent rating system for when I used the Goodreads app, something that would be easy to remember and apply. It’s based on my reactions, or lack thereof, of any given book.

1 star: I did not like this book. Includes books that I would have given zero stars to (books I hated), as I can’t do that on Goodreads and Amazon.

2 stars: Meh. I did not have any particular feelings about this book, neither positive nor negative. I guess it was okay.

3 stars: I liked this book. It was good.

4 stars: I liked this book enough to rec it to other people.

5 stars: I will absolutely re-read this book in the future. I loved it.

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

Don’t send me an email with “It’s okay if you don’t review my book”, or something similar, in the first few sentences. If you don’t believe in your novel, why should I? It doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

Also, while I don’t mind copy-paste letters as long as they are professional looking, at least please make sure that my name and the name of my blog are in the same font as the rest of the email. Otherwise it looks copy-pasted, and it also looks like you didn’t make any effort at all.

Most of the time though, the summary is 100% what convinces me to read a book or not (aside from the cover in physical books.) If you can’t write a good summary (I know I can’t), then you should ask a professional to do it for you. In most cases, it’s what sells your book.

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

Not yet, but my blog is pretty new. I did get my review featured on the Cloudscape website though. That was nice.

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?

A good quote I once read – I think it was from Neil Gaiman? – is that most one stars reviews and five stars one tell the same thing. One reviewer can lament that the author did not spend enough time on the plot, and another love that the book was so character-centered. The reason one person likes your book might be the same reason someone else hates it. You can’t please everyone.

However, all honest reviews are valid. You should sit down and listen, and then decide what part of it is something that you want to work on, and what part of it is just differing opinion.

And yes, it’s okay to be hurt by a bad review. Just take a deep breath, move on, and above all don’t stop writing.

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 think that the pastime is evolving. I read a ton of fanfics, and it’s so much part of my daily life that I don’t even consider reading 30k as a noteworthy thing that I did today. When I have actually taken the time to sit down with an actual book, then I say that I’ve read, even though all the others things that I do also count as reading.

With the rise of short stories websites, and chapter-by-chapter original fiction on Wattpad, and other such easily available stories at the touch of a finger, people might no longer recognize reading the pastime, simply because it no longer looks the same as it did before.

I think that people love reading because people love stories. Whether they come in the form of a book, a movie, a video game, or gossip around the water fountain, stories are an integral part of ours lives as humans, and storytelling is an art as old as our specie. It’s not going away any time soon.

About Writing

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

Not going to the end of a good idea. A lot of new authors want to appeal to mainstream publishing houses, or to a pre-existing market. But you can never be the “next so-and-so big name author”, you can only ever be the first you. So don’t be afraid to make new things and break a couple of walls while you’re at 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?

I tend to read all the way through the first chapter before making a decision. I understand that agents are busy, though, and if the first few pages are boring and only afterwards does the book get better, it will certainly show up in my review. A strong beginning is always better.

Is there anything you will not review?

With exceptions, I do not review horror, erotica, anything grimdark, slices of life and French literary fiction.

About Publishing

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

It’s garbage. 90% of everything is crap, and plenty of books have been published that shouldn’t have. On the other hand, mainstream publishing have such strict standards, and have been so gatekeepy in the past when self-publishing was not as easy as today, that a lot of very, very good stuff found it’s way on the internet because no one was giving it a published platform. Often, what people call the slush-pile is just different, wasn’t given a chance, or is the first stumbling steps of an author with great potential.

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

Yes. A lot more novels are getting self-published, and those novels often break the mold of what the big publishing houses are putting out. The sheer diversity and originality of indie books mean that the publishers have no choice but to sit up and take notice now.

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

The industry filters itself. What’s good will sell, and what’s bad won’t.

Comes a time in every reader’s life that they start to get a pretty good idea of what they want to read. It used to be that you were still beholden to what was in your town’s public library, or what sort of books you heard about in the newspapers and at the bookstore. Now, however, people can Google the most niche of their interest, and immediately connect with other readers from all over the world, who are more than ready to give them book recs. The industry itself doesn’t have to do anything. With good marketing and word of mouth, books can now more than ever find their target readers, and even bad books have someone who wants to read them.

End of Interview:

Read Marie’s reviews at Marie Does Book Reviews.

One response to “Reviewer IndieView with Marie Blanchet of Marie Does Book Reviews

  1. I enjoyed reading about a reviewer who is compassionate and still has standards. It’s an accomplishment to even finish a novel, but often it’s a learning experience. All writers need encouragement as well as criticism.