A bad ending can ruin a book for me and a good ending can redeem one.
O – 23 September, 2017
How did you get started?
I have always had a passion for reading and it’s one of the few things my mom and I have in common. When I started the book blog and asked her to join me in reviewing books it all started with a reading competition to see who could read more books in a year. The reviews were more of an added bonus to help share our good/bad reading experiences with others and help them find their next read in the process. Even though we don’t compete anymore we’ve kept up reading and reviewing because it is so much fun and very rewarding.
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 make notes as I go along. I prefer reading e-books because I can highlight and add notes without defacing my precious books and then it is really easy to see all my notes and highlights in one place when I finish the book. When I read physical books, I hand-write notes into a notebook. I try to review quickly after I finish a book while it’s still fresh in my mind and the better my notes are the easier it is to write the review.
What are you looking for?
A good story is very important to me. I love being surprised by turns in the plot. And then in the end it all comes down to the conclusion. A bad ending can ruin a book for me and a good ending can redeem one. I’m also a sucker for great characters, I love it when I get all attached to them.
If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?
If it’s really minor I’ll ignore it and it won’t affect the rating. If it is a bit distracting I’ll usually just make a note of it in my “cons” section and it could cost .5 to 1 star off the rating. I’ve been known to talk to the author about it and suggest editing and not mention it in the review if it is minor. And at times I leave a disclaimer if the version I read was a pre-editing version. Although, it doesn’t bother me that much, I know it can be a trigger for some readers so I do often note its intensity in reviews.
How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?
When I’m not busy I usually read about 100 pages a day but lately a book that length would probably take me about a week to read just due to all my other obligations.
How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?
I use a 5 star system. 5 is an amazing, must-read book. 4 is a great book that I would recommend. 3 is a good book but it has some flaws. 2 is a bad book but there is some good quality about it that makes me think someone would like it. 1 is a terrible book that I never should have finished and I don’t recommend it. I’ve only ever given one, 1 star rating. Usually potential 1-2 star books land in my DNF pile. DNF – Did Not Finish books do not get reviewed. I also use half stars for books that fall somewhere between 2 ratings.
What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?
Be friendly and personal in your review request, when it comes across as copy/pasted it stands out less from the rest. I’ve actually gotten e-mails where they addressed me by the name of the last blogger they contacted. It also helps a lot to read the reviewer’s policies. Contact many bloggers or authors who do review exchanges and don’t be discouraged by the ones who don’t have time for your book, we do historically get a lot of submissions.
Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?
Yes, although it’s rare to actually get an e-mail. It’s also highly appreciated to know my review helped someone find a book.
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 definitely agree. Even if their review wasn’t necessarily fair you risk making yourself look bad by arguing with a consumer. Don’t take negative reviews personally and try to take something from it.
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 don’t think it could ever die. It’s hard for me personally to imagine that because I love reading so much and I regularly connect with so many other people who are also book obsessed. Reading can give a person a dual life, transport them to places they could never go otherwise, and meet people who will never exist. Reading is also so important for personal growth. Written works can educate, inspire, and enforce valuable morals and life lessons. I also think these days people read a lot more than they realize. With smart phones and social media people are reading socially everyday without realizing they are reading.
What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?
I see telling instead of showing and at times characters are underdeveloped. In most cases I think it’s just a lack of editing.
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 very generous and I give a book about 50 pages before putting it down. If it starts off REALLY terrible then I’ll put it down sooner. I started a book once where the beginning was so unrealistic and offensive I quit after the second chapter.
Is there anything you will not review?
I don’t really read a lot of non-fiction these days. I’d rather escape reality. And I really don’t want to read anything too sad and depressing.
What do you think of the oft-quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?
Well, with self-publishing getting easier and more accessible there could be some truth to that. But in my experience I’ve been able to pick out quality indie books with little difficulty. Books that always deserved to be published but maybe never could have been without self-publishing.
Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to indie or self-published titles?
Yes, I think there are so many high-quality examples of indie authors out there that people are more open minded to seek out and read indie books. In my experience, indie books are more enjoyable to read because they lack the fluff I tend to find in traditionally published books. I imagine the fluff is only there to meet the traditional publishers page requirement for maximum cost efficiency or something like that. Where as indie authors have more freedom to express their creativity and style. I think a lot of people could agree that getting published is like winning a raffle, and not getting published doesn’t necessarily mean the book is bad.
Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can ‘filter’ good from bad, aside from reviews?
Aside from reviews, reading samples or excerpts of the book could demonstrate their quality to an extent. I’ve also noticed a bit of a trend where the more care the author puts into getting a stunning cover for their book coincides with the overall professionalism they put into other aspects of their book. I’ve seen too many books with ugly covers and also no signs of editing.
End of Interview:
To read O’s reviews, visit O.D. Book Reviews.