Posted By: Shopprice New Zealand
How did you get started?
Well, I used to contribute to a blog and run my own that were fan fiction based. After a couple of years of not having that outlet I decided to start again. I’d been reading again hot and heavy and besides telling Emmy (my bff and co blogger) about them all I wanted to tell everyone. And what better way than to blog about it?
I went to work the next day with a mission in mind. I told Em, “Hey I started a blog and you’re gonna help.” (Laughs) She had never blogged but I kinda threw her in and now she’s almost a pro.
Then I drug Jess and Lauren on board because I needed my best friends along with me. They are the rare few people that I know I can trust with keeping up with what they are needed to do, stay on target and be there in a pinch. We all read and want to spread the word to the world that books are the best part of a day.
How do you review a book? Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along?
This all depends on the book. Because at any given time I can be reading anywhere from 1 to 5 books at a time. No joke. Same for the others we are all multitasking machines.
Honestly I used to make notes as I went then wrote up a review. I have at times made notes after half a book and then went on. But, most books are read straight through and as soon as I see “the end” I write my review. There are a few books that I literally am so struck by (in good or bad ways) that I just can’t review right then. I have to let the thoughts and emotions settle before I can do it.
Em makes notes as she goes for most books. And at times reads straight through then does her review. As with me it can take a day or so to do some reviews just because the book hit so many levels of emotions.
Jess and Lauren are troopers and read straight through. Notes being made only if there is a line or something that they must add to their review.
What are you looking for?
A good read. A balance of drama, life events and as much as it kills us we want that gut wrenching battle between the main characters. Because, let’s be honest here, no one has a perfect life. And books with a HEA are great when you’ve been able to ride the roller coaster of life with the characters. As much as I hate to admit this, I have a love/hate relationship with cliffhangers. I love to hate them. But if the book is good enough that the cliffie makes me go to book 2 you have a great book.
A book that’s all lovey dovey, cheesy kind of read won’t hold my attention. Not really my style and I’m sure the girls would agree with me when I say we want the real story not a fairly tale. We’ve moved passed the Disney phase of our dreams and are in big girl land.
If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?
This here is a tough one. On one hand I’m dyslexic so grammar and such are not as noticeable to me. I see most thing bassackwards (as my nana used to say) so… It’s hard to judge. With that being said if I can notice it then we have an issue…
The only real exception to that are the ARCs we receive. As anyone knows they are uncorrected and contain errors. I do not let that bother me while reading them. But if its a published book, one that I buy or am gifted and I can visibly notice the errors… it can throw me off from reading the book. Thankfully I’ve only had that happen once so far in my reading endeavors.
Now that was me, I know that kind of thing bugs Em, Jess and Lauren; errors I mean. As I’m sure it does others but I’ve the mind set that no ones perfect and even with an editor (which I recommend any author to have) you may find a few mistakes. But having a lot will drop your review rating.
How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?
Well.. the connection to the book is what I’d have to look at. The better the book the faster I can read through it. now when I say better what I mean is how I get into the story itself. On a normal read it could be anywhere from one day to a week. 8 out of 10 times it takes an average 3 days to read a full novel depending on what life throws my way.
On a quiet day I can read a full 300 page novel and start another. But as we all know life is normally chaos on roller skates so those times are far far in between. Unless its an audio-book. Those can be devoured in a day depending on length.
I believe the same is for the girls. We are all serious readers. It’s kinda like chips, can’t eat just one… So a book you can’t read just one chapter at a time. You get to the end of the chapter and you say, “Just one more chapter,” then its 3am and you are done with the book.
How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?
To be honest we use the same scale as Amazon and Goodreads. Uh, we have one that we adapted to make it work but then theirs were right on the money. I can say for Em’s original rating system 1 * means Burn it… so… this was the lesser of two evils. As we don’t want to be harsh or seem like high and mighty arseholes.
What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?
Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews. If someone says no then move to another. Not every reader is going to like every book put in front of them. That is even something I have to remind myself. I hate saying no but I can’t say yes to a book I know I won’t like.
Also, don’t be afraid to spend a little money to do advertising or signing your book up for ads through promo sites or even blogs that do promos and such. You can NEVER have too much advertising. Just make sure you pace yourself.
No one is going to work as hard as you do to get your book out there.
Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?
Yes at times. We appreciate when an author or their PA sends us a message thanking us for our review. We don’t do it for the recognition but its greatly appreciated. Then there are the rare few that don’t say anything about it. Which again is fine.
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, we agree 100% and then some. If you as the author ask someone to read your book you can’t fault them for the review they give you. They have taken time out of their schedule to spend time reading what you have written. There is no way for you know that their review is not 100% honest so you have no right to get mad at the review. Nor do you have a right to argue over a review. That is a sure fire way to get you black listed.
Bloggers talk. Trust me on this. I’ve seen it happen a few times. Out of those there was only one book that I went and paid a second look at after the fact. Honestly if I think the author is going to be an ass (excuse my expression) I will pass on their books as well. I am not here for high school aged drama over my thoughts and feels on a book. neither are the girls. We are all honest with our reviews. And I am sure at times that is not what the author wants to hear but the truth is the truth.
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 that is completely accurate. That being said I know a few bloggers that are no longer reading because life took over and its like books vs family. Family will always win. But then you have some like the girls on this blog that despite the busy lives we lead we still make the time to read. Even most of the authors I know that bust their buts daily to get words on a page for their fans still read.
Statistics can only show you what is going on at the time the information is gathered. Like anything else in life day to day reading habits change. This week I may read 5 books, next week 1. Then I could get a hot week where I read 8 to 10 books. If they look at the week I read 1 book that is all they will count. (Probably a bad example but you get my point)
Reading is something that is going to be around long after we are all gone.
What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?
Urm, this may make a few people twitchy or pissy but I’d say authors making their own book covers. Unless you are a graphic designer or someone that knows how to meld pictures don’t try it. If you are, bravo, keep up the good work. If you’re not.. spend the money to get a good cover. I beg you.
I’ve seen an influx lately of covers that you can tell are ‘home made’.. and a not so good cover can ruin your book for some. If your cover makes me say, “what the hell were you thinking?” that’s bad. Know the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well I am honestly one of those people. I judge a book by the cover. If the cover is not to my liking I may keep scrolling. The only saving grace in that case would be either a blurb that makes me go “ooh” or someone saying, “hey, you have to read this book”.
Also, blurbs are so important… yet some seem to be just tossed together. This is the way to catch a readers attention. If your cover doesn’t do it then the blurb may be your one or only chance to catch a reader’s attention. And a one sentence blurb is a NO GO people. Really. If that is all you think of your book you can’t expect anyone else to give it a second glance.
This is my check list that I go over every single time I look at a book, whether I read it or not. If you make it past #4, its usually good sailing.
The # of *’s a book has (though I don’t really judge it by this. I have been known to pick up a book because it had low *’s just to see what the problem was. Last one I did that to I frigging loved)
First Chapter (if there is no way to see chap 1 then you only have 2 shots to make me want to read your book.. unless there is a teaser. But if you use a teaser it needs to be a good one.)
The only other thing I can say that again I have seen in recent times is ‘bullying’ and getting mad when you get a bad review. As I stated earlier. If you act like you are in high school no one is going to take you seriously. You’ll get black listed and when no one reads your book you would have failed yourself. And you will only have you to blame.
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?
This one can go one of two ways. I usually know by the first few pages if I am going to like a book or not. Honestly. I have started books made it a few chapters in raring to go only to have them crap out on me. So, I try to give it to 15% of a book. So if its a paperback you have on average of 30 to 50 pages to get me drawn into the story. If its a ebook you have 15%. Em is the same way and I believe the same is similar for Lauren and Jess.
Then for me even if the first 15% is a little slow I have been known to go on. Especially if its one that I just have to have. Meaning I love the cover, the blurb made me do that grabby hands thing that all book worms do. I will try. But if its not hitting anything by 20 to 30 % I’m done. Thankfully that doesn’t happen to us much. For us this year between all 4 of us we have read over 400 books. Only about 12 have been marked as DNFs.
Is there anything you will not review?
This is an interesting question. I would say yes and no but then again the others have their own opinions here.
Barb ~ I don’t read BDSM related stories.. I’ve tried and failed. I can’t do it. I am also VERY selective on anything that says “erotica” on it. I am not a fan of reading what I consider porn (no offense to anyone who writes those subjects, they are just not for me). I don’t mind some sex but too much can make me put a book down, no matter the author or the story. There are 2 series on my shelves now that I have read once will not read again because both were great series but the amount of sex in them turned me off from reading them again. Anything else I am game to give it a try if it catches my attention.
Emmy ~ I hesitate to say that there is anything that I won’t read. I like to think I’ve got a pretty open mind. I don’t read a lot of science fiction (that isn’t Star Trek) anymore, but I’m not opposed to it as long as the story sounds interesting to me. I try to look at every book for it’s own merit, instead of dismissing a whole genre. But I also feel that no one should force themselves to read something that they already know they just won’t like. For example, Christian fiction makes me want to claw my eyes out, so normally I would shy away from that type of book just out of previous experience.
Jess ~ As far as what I wouldn’t read is the hardcore BDSM, science and fantasy really aren’t my thing.
Lauren ~ I don’t read anything BDSM.
There are other genres that are still ‘new’ to us. (ie: Sci-fi, fantasy, even some epic fantasy… and a few sub genres of others) We have to ease our way into the new stuff. Its not that we won’t review it, it just has to catch our attention at first glance.
What do you think of the oft-quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?
Seeing how I had to ask what this meant I am not sure I can give a good answer but.. I can say this. That just because something is in the “slush pile” doesn’t mean its not a good book. Granted some will be good, some will be crap and some should just be burned from the get go, they are the works of authors who have put their hearts ad souls into their writings. One man’s trash is another man’s gold. What I may not like and look at as “Were you high when you wrote this?” another reader may absolutely love.
There are a few books that are on the shelves right now, that are published by big publishing houses, a few of which I managed to read that I seriously wonder what in the hell the authors were smoking when they wrote said books. (And no I won’t say what books, I’m not a basher.. most days) I guess its like anything else its up to the interpretation of the reader.
Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to indie or self-published titles?
Possibly. I hope so at least. There are many, many, many FANTASTIC indie authors out there. A few of my favorite authors are Indie authors. Most of what I read is published by Indie authors. I am not alone in that I’ve seen more and more people reading Indie books.
One reason for that is cost. (This is just my opinion) Indie authors don’t charge an arm, a leg and half your butt for a book. SOME publishing houses set their books too dang high. I refuse to pay more for an ebook than I could a paperback. And I see that a lot for publishing house authors.
Indie authors set a fair price and most times I think they don’t charge quite enough for all of the work they do. Because they have to do EVERYTHING from scratch. I know the work that goes into it. Its crazy.
I believe most indie authors are in this to give a service to their readers. Supply and Demand. They supply, we demand. But as with any ‘job’ they want to be able to support themselves and their families.
Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can ‘filter’ good from bad, aside from reviews?
No. There is no way to filter books without reviews. One review is worth a thousand words. Without people reviewing the books, giving honest, unbiased opinions of the story, the characters and the way its all packaged… you’d flop before the race even started. In my opinion.