One of the nicest surprises about self-publishing is getting to know book reviewers. They have quite the story to tell, and each one is different. One such person is Julie Whiteley, who coincidentally is the first reviewer that I ever approached about Dawn at Last. I was quite nervous back then, feeling that I must maintain a cool distance. I thought that was required of the author. I’m glad I was wrong.
After getting to know Julie better – and a few others – it just seemed right to do let my followers have the opportunity to hear what she has to say. So here’s my interview. Enjoy it and learn . . . I know I have.
Can you give me a little about your background? How long have you been writing reviews? What made you pursue this hobby?
I started writing reviews 3 years ago when I began to notice authors becoming more vocal about the need for reviews. My family said I should write reviews because I read so much and I should share my thoughts with others, plus help an author out in the process. So, I thought why not? So, I wrote my first review for Amazon and a professional reviewer tore it apart. I didn’t know I was being graded! I took that as a personal challenge and started writing reviews all the time, for every book I read, but stayed over on Goodreads instead of Amazon. One day I got an email from Goodreads letting me know I was in the top 1% of reviewers on that site. This was another indicator that authors needed reviews. So, that was when I started taking things more seriously and got very involved all over social media and with authors personally, also on Netgalley and Edelweiss, and I started a book review blog.
Can you describe a typical week in the world of reviewing?
Oh that’s a good question. Instead of a typical week, though, let’s break it down into a day. I have a blog post every day. So, I schedule the post, then I start putting it out there on social media. I then answer emails for review request and other emails concerning tours, blogs, reviews etc.
After that I read, read, and read, then I start writing reviews. I like to write the review as soon as possible after reading the book so it’s still fresh in my mind. It can take up to two hours – sometimes more – to write a review. At that point I will either need to contact the author to let them know I have their review ready, or I will need to post it to Edelweiss or Netgally or one of the other sites I review for, then on to GR, Amazon, and LibraryThing for starters.
I start prep work on the next blog post, interview or spotlight, check on all social media to touch base with other reviewers and bloggers, authors etc. I may chat with Lawrence. LOL
Then I read some more! I do this seven days a week. I work on books in one way or another for 5 to 6 hours a day.
Is there anything you would like authors to know? Is that different for indie authors than for traditionally published ones?
What should an author’s know? They need a thick skin, a positive attitude, must always be professional, even if this isn’t your day job, and above all be patient. Read a lot, research self-publishing and get advice before you even start trying to promote. Beware of scams and paying for reviews and do not under any circumstances swap reviews with other authors. Going a little further, I really don’t recommend having friends and family post reviews for you either. Trust me, this will come back to haunt you. So, try to prepare yourself and arm yourself with some good solid advice before publishing your book. Knowing what to expect and having some idea what works and what doesn’t will go a long way. Also, you might want to know that most likely you will have to spend a little money to get your book promoted. I don’t mean buying reviews, but you may consider doing some book tours and putting your book on an indie author site like StoryFinds that will get you get some reviews and a little recognition. Costs for joining are very reasonable and will help get the ball rolling for you.
Yes, it is different for independent authors. A lot different in fact. Indies do not have a filter. The traditionally published author has a little help even if it’s a small publishing company. There is more money to spend on promoting your book, there are more contacts, more ways to reach people. The indie is out there all by themselves. If their book gets promoted it’s because they used their own money and spent their own time building up a network of contacts and it’s a much slower process and since you don’t have an advisor, you can make a lot of mistakes and get taken for ride if you aren’t careful. On the plus side, you have complete creative control over your work. You are your own boss, so can write a romance then write a horror novel if you want. You don’t have to fit into any set mold and you aren’t under a contract or deadline. Writing can be something you do for pleasure away from your day job or you can turn it into a career option, it’s up to you.
You must have certain experiences that really stand out for you, both positive and not so positive – can you tell us a bit about them?
Positive far outweighs the negative. I have built some wonderful relationships with publishers and authors since becoming a reviewer. I have had my reviews published in books, in publications, and I have had people send me personal notes, become friends with me through social media and we work together to help spread the word about great talent and good books. I love this part of being a reviewer. Most authors are very professional and nice. In fact, just yesterday I got a card in the mail from an author thanking me for the review and interview I did for him. I get personal notes, swag and some authors are kind enough to follow my blog and help me gain more followers. Most authors are aware that reviewers are not being paid for their time and so they will do some little something to pay if forward. One of the best rewards though is seeing an author blossom and knowing that in some small way I helped them out.
Negatives: Spending hours on a book, the review, the blog post, and promoting on social media and never even getting a response from the author. No thank you, no kiss by *** or anything.
While many worship athletes, musicians, and actors, it was always authors that did it for me. Becoming a reviewer has shown me another side of the author that I wish I didn’t have to know. A little familiarity breeding contempt I think, which can lead to disillusionment and so it’s easy to get burned out. Some authors have written one book and suddenly they think they are Ernest Hemingway. They don’t ask if you will do something for them, they demand it and some can be really rude. So, I’m going to lecture authors:
The statistics for reviews is dismal. People will rate a book but will not leave comments. I have to wonder why that is. Informal polls suggest reviewers don’t want to be hassled by authors to revise, edit or even take down the review. One reviewer expressed real concern when an author began stalking him online. Seeing reviewers being trashed on social media sites is also a real turn off. It’s no wonder authors have a hard time getting people to review books for them. Again, be professional, even if this is just a hobby for you. Always thank a reviewer for their time, even if the review was disappointing.
I’ve had my moments too, when I wanted to know “What’s in it for me?” LOL [Note – Julie sent me this clip from one of her favorite movies – Field of Dreams – and the author gets to walk I can so relate to this :-)]
Aside from reading, what are your other passions in life . . . chocolate goes without saying!
My pets are a HUGE part of my life. I have two cocker spaniels and three cats. They are all spoiled and so I have to spend a lot of time with them. Somebody has to do it LOL I also spend a lot of time spreading the word against animal cruelty and violence against women.
Where would you to go from here regarding your book reviews, personally and professionally?
First a personal comment. I hope to continue to increase my blog followers in order to reach more readers. I want to improve my writing skills and in the process write cleaner and more interesting reviews. I am also working on calling attention to reviewers so that authors can appreciate the hard work that goes into writing a thoughtful review and to work on a system that will compensate reviewers in some way and perhaps come up with a way for authors and reviewers to rate their experiences with one another after a review has been completed. Feedback from both parties could help us learn what we need to do to improve a system that is in terrible shape at the moment. Do you think this is a good idea or do you think it will only increase the gap between author and reader? [I think these are fantastic ideas – it’s about time.]
Professionally, the future is wide open for some really great changes in the world of books and reading. The short story will become a favorite of fans and e-series will grow in popularity. I really do believe that books will become more interactive in the near future, giving the reader a say in what takes place within the story and the way the story ends. Alternative endings are already cropping up as well as books that offer the reader choices within the book on which path they would like the character to take. It’s like reading a book three different ways. I think video reviews will also crop up more often. There are still a lot of changes to come and growing pains yet to work through, but overall it’s an exciting time for authors, books and readers. I hope to be part of it in some way.
A huge thank Julie. If you would like to follow her, here are a few links, one to Facebook and one to her blog:
Lawrence, thank you for having me as a guest on your blog today! You did me proud!
It was a pleasure and an honor. Now if I may rephrase your last sentence, “You did yourself proudly!”