That day changed my whole life, I’d say, and I was introduced to the world of not only reading books, but becoming an active member of a community I had no idea existed until that day.
Desert Rose – 15 June 2017
How did you get started?
I fell out of the hobby of reading after I graduated High School. After a few years, I realized my nearly constant sour mood was from a lack of reading. Books had been a constant companion for me growing up, so going that long without reading anything taught me how much I need books in my life.
Unsure of what books to start with, I found Goodreads, and made a to-be-read list from some groups I joined. I noticed how many people in that group left book reviews, but I hadn’t done that before.
After prompting from a group member, I left a review for a book we’d been discussing. An author saw my review, and thought I’d like his book, and emailed me requesting a read-for-review of his book – the first I’d ever experienced.
That day changed my whole life, I’d say, and I was introduced to the world of not only reading books, but becoming an active member of a community I had no idea existed until that day. Professional reviewers.
I immediately fell in love, and have been reviewing ever since.
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 a photographic memory, so I’ve never been one for taking many notes. I am, however, very picky about the books I do read. If I don’t like a book, it’ll stay in my head forever! Not always pleasant, haha.
I generally tend to read a book cover to cover, or as quickly as I can, and write my review immediately, so the feeling I have of the book is fresh.
What are you looking for?
Generally, I’m looking for a book that makes my imagination work. If I can picture it happening, and fall into the story, then I’m basically happy. A good plot will generally equal a good review, and from there it simply depends on whether there are plot holes, if the character development made sense, and if it was edited/formatted well.
If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?
If the grammar is the only issue, that’s generally a four star for me. Still, if the plot is one that really moved me, and hit me hard, and the characters will stick with me, I’ll most likely not care so much about the grammar, and still rate it a five star, with a note that the grammar could be improved.
How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?
Good question! While I am a natural speed reader, it really does depend on the story. No matter how long the book is, if the plot doesn’t pull me in, it takes me longer to finish it. I read Moby Dick (200K words) – took me two days. The Hobbit (95K words) took me three weeks, haha.
How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?
I based mine off the standards for Goodreads & Amazon, although I use roses (Desert Rose Reviews), instead of stars.
Five roses is basically excellent: plot, characters, & overall experience was amazing, and the story will stick with me for quite a while.
Four roses is good, experience was pleasurable, and the plot/characters were good, it just didn’t blow me away.
Three roses is a not good, not bad. I didn’t want to stop reading, but it isn’t one I’ll end up reading again. Kind of a “meh” feeling.
Two roses is usually for books I wish I could rate three roses, but simply can’t if I’m being honest. I don’t like using two roses, and generally try to figure out if I’m being too harsh, or too nice. A lot of books I rate three roses were probably two roses for most of the book, but I bumped them up to three because I know I can be quite harsh when I dislike something.
One star is bad. Really bad. I can’t find anything about the book to talk me into rating higher, and really, it isn’t difficult to please me. I’m simple. One rose from me means it was a complete waste of time, I wish I wouldn’t have read it, and I only finished it out of my own stubborn inability to not finish something I start. It’s a personal inability I have to leave things unfinished, and it usually leaves me with a horrible irritation at the end, feeling almost forced to finish a book I dislike that much. In five years, very few books have ever gotten that low of a rating from me.
DNF. Did not finish. Oh gosh. If a book over-rides my need to finish things I start, yikes. That’s really bad. Really really bad. I think there have only been a few books in my entire life I couldn’t actually finish, and I still sneer at the thought of them.
What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?
As a somewhat newbie author myself, I’m actually struggling with this! Honestly, my best advice really is just to reach out to bloggers and reviewers.
As an author who started out as a reviewer, I understand both sides. Reviewers want to review books, and if you find one that looks like a good match for your story, shoot them an email! Be personal – don’t send mass emails, because that just makes a reviewer feel unappreciated. That’s a huge topic of complaint in reviewer circles, it seems.
It is all about networking, though. Making genuine connections, and working with people. It takes time, but if it’s worth it to you, then the effort will pay off in the end.
Also, edit your book. Don’t talk to any reviewers until your book is edited. Any reviewer who has an opinion worth something, won’t have a good time reading a book filled with mistakes, and really, if you’re putting a book out there, the point should be to give the reader a good time, and entertain them.
Edit, then network.
Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?
I do, actually. I’ve had many people tell me they either read a book and fell in love with it because of my review, or stayed away from a book because of my review. Both kinds of messages have been wonderful experiences for me. I love knowing I help other people choose good books to 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?
Definitely. A review is an opinion, and everyone is entitled to their own. An author isn’t promised a positive review, and if a reader doesn’t like their book, well, that’s just part of putting anything out in the world. Some people will love it, some people will hate it, but it should all help an author grow.
Unless the reviewer is attacking the author personally or crossing some sort of obvious ethical boundary, I’d say let it go and focus on the positives, because there is always a silver lining. I do that as an author, and I try to keep the author in mind when I review any book, but it’s always difficult to deal with someone not liking your work.
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 people love reading because they love being entertained. We adore entertainment. For a lot of people, it’s also an escape, either from their life, or from the lack of having anything else to spend their time focusing on. Few people enjoy simply sitting and doing nothing, and books are a wonderful way to keep your mind active for a little while.
Unfortunately, I do think reading is becoming a dying pastime, which is a complete shame. It’s such a common thought though, to simply watch the film if it was based on a book, or watch a movie in general. When modern people have spare time to spend on something, it seems most tend to choose movies or television, especially in the last decade. Even school reading lists have fallen in quality and quantity.
What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?
Not editing. With the option of self-publishing so simple and readily available to writers, many people now skip paying for editing, citing lack of funds or time as a valid reason, and it isn’t. An unedited book defeats the purpose of publishing a book – to entertain. You can’t be entertained if you can’t stay in the flow of the story, and spelling/grammar mistakes take the reader out of the story. It’s like tripping, for the mind. You have to smooth that road out, before you ask people to drive on it. Unless, of course, you’re alright with bad reviews and complaints – no one likes paying to be tripped and irritated.
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 understand the idea, and why that is such a strict rule for so many publishers and agents. What is a bummer, is the fact there are some great indie books out there, that grab you two or three chapters in. I think there needs to be more options and ways for writers to polish their books, without breaking their banks or simply being rejected completely.
I’d give a book a quarter of the length to grip me, wherever that lands it. I’ve never been gripped by a book after the first quarter – if it’s bad that far in, it’s bad all the way through.
With indie books becoming so prevalent, the standards need to change, and update with the times. Indie authors should be celebrated, not turned away. The publishing industry simply needs an update, so that good books have the chance to become great books.
Is there anything you will not review?
Erotica. I think it’s gross, I don’t wanna read it, and I’m not interested in it. If a book has a sex scene thrown in, my review of the book overall will be worse, because my experience had a wrench thrown in. Personal preference, but that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? I don’t enjoy bedroom stuff in books, and it’s simply not necessary to making a book interesting. A good writer (in my opinion) can entertain me without selling out with sex scenes. For me, it just ruins a perfectly good story. Blech.
What do you think of the oft-quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?
Okay, insecure moment, but I’ve literally never heard that comment before. Where in the world have I been?
In order to join the topic of conversation, I did a quick Google search.
I can definitely see where that idea is coming from, although I don’t really agree with the negativity associated with it. The internet has offered writers who would have otherwise never been noticed, a wonderful opportunity to connect with people. Writers have the perfect chance to flourish, as long as there are readers out there to entertain. It’s cruel that the modern world is also responsible for turning would-be readers into movie lovers, but I digress.
There are definitely writers out there who need to learn the art of polishing their story, however everyone deserves the chance to grow. As long as the writer is willing to grow, I don’t see a problem.
Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to indie or self-published titles?
I think so, definitely. As more indie authors are becoming known for wonderful stories, the climate is changing. I hope it will continue to grow in popularity over the coming years, because there are some incredible indie authors in the world, who have stories worth noticing.
Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can ‘filter’ good from bad, aside from reviews?
Filter? Not really. Too many filters are what kept the climate so stiff in previous centuries. The modern climate simply needs to expand and grow into being a welcome place for writers in general. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ is all relative, and depends on the reader. Really, our culture needs to change, and re-embrace reading as a social norm, so there will be more reviewers out there.
End of Interview:
To read Desert Rose’s reviews, visit her website.