I think people love reading because it’s a means of escape. It allows us to travel to new worlds, immerse ourselves into the lives of heroic or villainous characters, and get away from the stress of everyday life.
Anthony Avina – 26 November 2017
How did you get started?
I started the blog as a way of reaching new readers for my books, as well as sharing my thoughts and opinions. I got a couple of emails from authors looking for reviews, and after I posted my first review, the requests started pouring in. I realized that I had a passion for reviewing other author’s work, and I wanted to help promote these authors and their work, especially in such a competitive market.
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 read the books first. I like to enjoy the story without worrying about notes or anything. I allow myself to absorb the story and make my reviews reflect that, rather than delving into the technical side of things.
What are you looking for?
I’m looking for well-told stories. As long as a book isn’t filled with so many grammatical errors that it becomes unreadable, then I focus instead on the story. I believe there is an audience for several different stories, and if an author has the courage not only to write the story but put it out there for the world to see, then it’s our job to make sure they get the recognition they deserve.
If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?
Like I said, I don’t focus too much on grammar unless it makes the story unreadable. A couple minor grammar issues don’t ruin a story for me, and instead I focus on how enjoyable the characters and plot are, and if it makes sense.
How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?
About three or four days maximum. Juggling work and the blog makes reading time dependent on my job.
How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?
I use a 10 point rating system. If the grammar is a little off but the story is good, I give it a 9 or 8. A 7 or 6 is reserved for stories that are good but don’t’ always connect and have more than just a couple of grammar issues. Rarely do I give a book lower than a 6, but if I do it’s because the book is unreadable. I usually prefer to contact the author privately rather than post that kind of review though, because I understand how hard it can be to get a scathing review with little to know helpful tips and hindering your rating on places like Amazon.
What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?
Don’t give up. You are going to get a lot of rejection in this line of work, but if you are passionate about your work, you’ll keep working at it and you will find people who share your passion and want to give your book a shot. Just be honest, be sincere and be thankful to those who take the time to read your book, and most of all, be patient. There are a lot of authors all trying to get their book read, and it may take some time to get to yours. The wait will be well worth it.
Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?
Yes, I often get emails, comments, and posts on Twitter and Instagram thanking me for my review. I try to take a positive approach to reviews, and people often appreciate that. It makes me happy to know that people respond to positivity.
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 would totally agree. While bad reviews are disheartening, you have to remember that not everyone will enjoy your work, and arguing about it doesn’t help anything. If there is constructive criticism in the review, take it and apply it to future work. If it’s just mean or rude, then giving them the time of day isn’t worth it. Just thank them for their time and move on. It’s not worth the trouble, believe me.
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 it’s a means of escape. It allows us to travel to new worlds, immerse ourselves into the lives of heroic or villainous characters, and get away from the stress of everyday life. It also can have a therapeutic effect, giving us a means of stirring up our own creativity. I used to think reading was a thing of the past for a lot of people, but I think we’re starting to see a resurgence of readers. Whether it’s the emerging YA audience or a renewed interest in memoirs and self-help books, I think reading is finally coming back into the mainstream.
What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?
Besides small grammatical errors, I notice some author’s work suffers from the show versus tell writing style. It seems sometimes authors will go into too much detail, in essence telling the reader what’s happening rather than showing them by alluding to things and allowing them to connect the dots themselves. Sometimes less is more.
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?
No, I don’t usually put it down. I like to give the first couple chapters a try to get me hooked. It really depends on the type of novel or story you are writing. Some stories require some buildup, while others can dive headfirst into the main conflict of the story. It’s really a book by book case.
Is there anything you will not review?
I will absolutely not review erotica. I also don’t review anything that is overtly homophobic, racist, sexist, etc. Finally, I myself am not religious, so I do not read religious books or books with an overuse of religion. As a fictional storytelling tool I can do, but books that focus on religion wouldn’t be able to get the proper attention they deserve on my blog.
What do you think of the oft-quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?
I do think there are quite a lot of books to be read online now, and the so called “slush-pile” that publishers, readers and reviewers have to sort through is monumental. Yet I do believe that the slush-pile isn’t necessarily something that applies online. I think self-publishing and the internet has helped build a bigger community of authors, writers, editors, and creators in general. This is making for much better content overall, and actually helps deplete the old “slush pile”.
Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to indie or self-published titles?
I have noticed a lot more attention to indie books in recent years. While publishing houses and the books they publish are definitely still at the top of the list, self-publishing has helped give the book industry a massive boom that has driven more readers to bookstores and online stores alike. I think this brings a certain level of respect with it.
Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can ‘filter’ good from bad, aside from reviews?
I think we might need to reconsider what we label as “good” and “bad”. There are some books that are obviously bad, with horrible grammar and poor storylines. Yet there are so many times I see books labeled as bad when they are thoroughly enjoyable and have a great story. Our words have meaning, and people take our thoughts into consideration before reading. If we take a more positive outlook on things and look for the good rather than the bad, we may be able to help the industry thrive, and by providing helpful comments we might be able to foster potential talent, rather than discourage it.
End of Interview:
Visit Anthony Avina’s website to read his reviews.