“I think the trend is changing from the traditional “Write what sells now” to “write what you want.” This is going to toss the marketplace on its ears because traditional publishers aren’t going to see marketing trends anymore because all genres are going to be selling equally as successfully.”
– Sue Owen Paper Mustang 14 November 2011
How did you get started?
I was a brand new indie writer and I tried to get my own book reviewed. I couldn’t find anyone interested. I saw the need! I started my Paper Mustang site to help other Indie authors wherever 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?
I read first then write the review. I always take time after reading a book to think about my impressions and what my ‘take aways’ were. That’s where I get the reviews.
What are you looking for?
I look for good grammar, no spelling errors first off. Poorly edited work never gets a review. I’m just not able to read past grammatical errors. Then I look for believable characters, good descriptions, good story line. I like to be a part of the stories and if I can’t be there then I don’t want to read the book.
If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?
I would write a note to the author and let them know. I won’t give a bad review. I feel that if the author can’t produce a work that is at least mostly grammatically correct, they should invest money in an editor. Don’t get me on my soap box but that’s one of the issues I have with Indie authors. I absolutely will not review a work that is less than professionally presented.
How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?
I speed read so probably about 10 hours, maybe a bit more.
How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?
I won’t give less than a 3 star. If I am reading a book and I can’t get into the story, hate the characters that I should be liking I won’t continue reading. Three stars has to have at least something good that draws my attention. If only that it’s a good storyline. For a four star I need to be interested in the story. A five star will give me a good plot, good characters and make me a part of it.
What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?
Be patient. Everyone wants a review. I’m over two years out now. I’m pretty typical I think for any review site that will accept books that far out. I keep asking for guest reviewers but no one is interested. I even offer the write the review s if they tell me about the book but…. No one wants to give an opinion.
Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?
All the time. One of the most gratifying pieces of what I do is when someone says thanks. Typically, authors are grateful for a review even if it isn’t perfect. They are just happy to have someone they don’t know read and comment on their book! I know I am!!
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?
Completely. An opinion is just that; an opinion. I make no bones about my reviews being completely my opinion. I don’t reiterate the story, either which some reviewers do. Let the author tell you about the book. My job is to tell you if it is worth reading, in my opinion. Everyone is going to get a bad review, even bestselling authors! You can’t please everyone. If you get a bad review, thank them for taking the time to look at your work and move on. If what your wrote truly is trash, you’ll know about the third or fourth bad review! I also take what people offer for improvement. That makes my book better, too.
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. I see more and more people being open about their reading. Or maybe I’m just paying more attention now. I think reading is taking a whole new turn, however, with the e-readers hitting the market. Now you don’t have to carry heavy books around or go to the store/library to get a new one. Really convenient and easy to read.
What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?
Two things that make my teeth grind: They don’t edit their work and they don’t pay attention to their covers. Both have to be professionally presented. And that’s not to say a professional has to do them, it just says they have to look like a professional did.
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 can usually tell by the first five pages if a book is going to be any good. If it doesn’t have my interest by then, I still read at least to page 10 but don’t bother after that if I’m not ‘feeing’ it.
There has been a lot of talk recently about 99 cents, what are your thoughts on that?
I’m changing my mind on that. I’ve seen blogs lately from some of the more successful Indie authors. I think I’m agreeing with the concept that if you charge 99 cents for your book, it isn’t of value. I think Indie authors as a whole grossly undervalue their work. If you have a good, commercial product, don’t undersell it. If you feel your book is as good as other professionals, then charge what you feel it is work. I’ve personally changed my prices recently. I think Indie authors should be given value for what they do.
Is there anything you will not review?
Yes. I don’t do genres that I don’t like such as Poetry, Non-Fiction. I have to be able to read it and get interested and excited about the book or I can’t review it. Those types of stories just aren’t anything I’m interested in.
What do you think of the oft quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?
I don’t think so. Almost all the books I read are really good. I still think an author can tell if his writing is crap. And every writer has those stories that just didn’t go anywhere but that’s not to say that even those someone might like. I think the trend is changing from the traditional “Write what sells now” to “write what you want.” This is going to toss the marketplace on its ears because traditional publishers aren’t going to see marketing trends anymore because all genres are going to be selling equally as successfully.
Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to Indie or self-published titles?
I sure hope so. When Indie was first made public the trash hit the readers. Now, however, the trend is to be professional and present your work in a professional manner. I think Indie writers are auditing their own and ‘calling’ bad authors to the carpet to be accountable. Very rarely do I find a book that is pure crap and should never have been written. Way better even than a year ago!
Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can “filter” good from bad, asides from reviews?
We are our own police. Indie authors need to audit each others’ work and I think we are getting pretty good at it. I challenge anyone these days to tell an Indie author from a professionally developed author. We rock!