Submitting a request to a book blogger can sometimes feel like shouting into the void. To understand why you might not be getting replies, or why those replies are not as enthusiastic as you’d expect, I drafted a list of questions and enlisted several reviewers to enlighten us.
My second interview is with Charles Franklin, of This College Dropout. He writes excellent reviews and has a very useful “Resources for Writers” section on his site. When you get the chance, I’d urge you to check it out. For now, let’s get to the interview!
1. Why do you review?
I am aware of the power of reviews. As a reader, they allow me to get some perspective before purchasing a book in this crowded world of content. They also allow me some interactivity with people that I would not ordinarily have. Through reviews, I can ask the reviewer (or even author) questions about the book or make comments.
2. Why indies?
It’s probably the direct, grassroots connection that I have with them. I love Dan Brown’s books, but I know that I have a better chance at winning in lotto than be in direct communication with him. Indie authors are different. I can communicate with them and watch them grow from the ground up. It’s an exciting thing to watch and be a part.
Another reason might be the accessibility. Indie books are often priced cheaper and are quicker to obtain. Before the eBook craze, you might have to wait years before an author writes a book. Now, it be a couple of months (or even weeks). I can get the book online or have it shipped quicker than I could waiting for a book to get to the bookstore.
Yet another reason might be the uniqueness. Traditionally published books tend to be similar. That’s by design. Publishers are trying to sell a lot of books, so they tend to be conservative by nature (unless something blows them away).
Indie authors aren’t bound by those rules, so they can publish what they want. In some ways, this is an amazing thing because you get a variety of unique writing talent that you wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else. It doesn’t always work. Because anyone can publish. I come across books that make me want say “Please do not quit your day job!”
3. What is the primary reason you might not finish a book?
Content. As you read more and more books (especially good ones), my tolerance for bad books becomes smaller. I can now tell within the first 2 to 3 pages, whether I will finish the book. I don’t know what it is, but if a book does not capture my attention in the first few pages, I’m gone.
4. Have you experienced any backlash from authors after posting a negative review?
I generally do not post negative reviews. I usually provide the comments to the author. Many authors I have come across prefer this method because some authors are new to the process. They may have never even received a review yet or received feedback about their book. Also, I really don’t have the time to post a negative review. Writing a positive review already takes enough time!
I do appreciate those who write reviews, both positive and negative. That is about the only quality assurance readers have with an indie book. That being said, I do positives and negatives about a book. I have also posted a negative book review or two, but never in a mean spirit.
5. How do you prefer to be approached?
Email. I will consider requests by Twitter as well.
6. What turns you off a review request?
- There are a lot of things that authors do that are atrocious to reviewers.
- Begging for reviews repeatedly on social media (If your book can’t generate interest without begging, quit writing!)
- Contacting me when I don’t read the genre (I don’t read romance, erotica, or most YA. I have authors who have mentioned they enjoy my blog and then ask if I want to read the latest new romance!)
- Sending out mass emails when I don’t even know the author
- Promoting a book as the “new best thing” and the cover is horrible or the editing could have been done by a third grader (Sorry for being so harsh!)
7. Biggest mistake writers make in soliciting reviews?
Not taking the time to follow the reviewer’s guidelines
8. What pet peeves do you have regarding author behavior?
There are quite a few. I see this from both sides because I read indie books and I promote them. From a reader’s perspective, some big pet peeves are:
- Constant “Buy my book” posts on your social media
- Begging for reviews
- Creating crappy content
From a marketer’s perspective, some big pet peeves are:
- Not investing in your book’s editing, formatting, and marketing
- Starting social media or a blog and then abandoning it
- Giving up
- Trying to market yourself as a writer after you’ve written a book
- Not listening to constructive feedback
9. What was your favorite review request, and why?
I guess my favorite review requests are the unassuming ones. These requests come from humble, but good (and creative) writers who ask for a review. I agree to it and the book is absolutely amazing. As a result, I follow them on almost every social media and support them in every way I can.
My least favorite review requests are from the self-proclaimed “best-selling” author who has a horrible book, but continues to go on and on about how their book is so special. Those kinds of review requests make me want to throw up.
10. What have you learned from your blogging/reviewing experience?
As a reader, I’ve gained more knowledge about what I like in a book and what I don’t know. As a person who helps authors, I’ve learned the importance of building and growing an audience.
11. Do you have any general advice for indie authors?
Sure. On social media, be yourself (and promote when you have to!) On writing, write your best and share bits of that creativity BEFORE you publish a book. On marketing, start small but powerful. Ensure you have the best you can afford in time and money. You don’t need to have a website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, etc. Choose what works best to share your story and creativity and invest there. In general, keep learning.
12. With reviews, on the whole, losing credibility, what advice do you have for readers who use these to gauge the quality of new authors?
First, never depend solely on one review for one book. That is a big thing for both authors and readers make. Look at as many as you can. Reviews can be purchased, manufactured, or could just express a reviewer’s mood at the moment. If a reviewer is having a bad day, it can come out in the book review. That’s why you need to look at as many as you can.
Another thing is to look at the reviews you are reading. Most fake reviews are surprisingly skimpy on detail. Good reviewers take the time to analyze and explain why they like or don’t like a review. It doesn’t mean that all short reviews are fake, but be careful. Lastly, look at the author themselves. If the reviews seem OK, but you can’t find the author on social media, that’s a warning sign. If the author has 35 positive reviews and their book only has 22 pages.
13. Aside from review requests, how do you find new books?
My main source online is social media, usually Twitter. Occasionally, I may across a good book in GoodReads or just browsing somewhere else online. Offline, it’s usually browsing in the library.
14. Does price matter?
Yes and no. It depends on the author and the content. Yes, I expect eBook prices to be lower than print books. Is that always a rule? No. If I know an author writes good content, I am willing to pay much more. For new authors, I’d rather stick to low prices until I can see how they turn out.
15. Do technical issues matter? If yes, how much?
If you mean technical issues, like formatting, it’s hard to describe. I normally don’t look at formatting, but hate a book if it’s formatting is too bad. I’m forgiving to a point ( I know personally how hard it is to write a book!), but I expect most of the technical stuff to be figured out.
Thank you, Charles, for taking the time to answer our questions!