Sunday, May 8, 2011

Authors "Take On" reviews Keta Diablo Day 8

Today is our last day! We have author Keta Diablo with us today!

If you send your books to a book review blog is there something specific you look for when you’re looking at their blog?

As an author, I have to be honest and say the things I look for if I hope to get a review on your blog are your number of followers and your rating system. I definitely read through your reviews until I get a feel for how you rate, how you regard authors and more importantly, how you review the books I’ve read. The best way to get a feel for the blogger/reviewer is to read their past reviews. I also look at the layout of the blog, but that’s less important.

What type of review do you like best: short or long?

I don’t necessarily care about the length of the review; I care more about the content of the review. Did the review address the good and possibly bad in a book? Did the review cover a pivotal scene or talk about their feelings regarding the characters? Does the reviewer know about POV (point of view) in scenes, character depth and what makes a good plot? If the reviewer talks at length about the author or the author’s past books that’s an indication they might be star struck – are impressed more by the author than the particular book they’re reviewing.

What do you think about spoilers in reviews?
I think it’s a good idea to warn about spoilers ahead of the review. I can understand some readers might not want to know what happens in a book.

Now, let’s talk about rating systems. On a scale of 1-5 stars, what would be your opinion of the ratings? Starting with the lowest at one first.

One of my favorite reviewers is Elisa Rolle, a GLBT reviewer from France. She’s well-known on Library Thing and Goodreads. The reason I believe in her reviews (and like her system) is because number one, she won’t review a book she’s not interested in, and number two, she doesn’t give ratings. I like that. I have come to trust her judgment, and know she’s picky about what she reviews. She doesn’t choose the same authors, but has a wide variety of genres and authors at her review site. What does this tell a reader: 1) The book is no doubt a good read if you like the genre. 2) The review will be an honest, constructive dissertation about the book, the writing, and her personal thoughts on both.

The rating system of 1-5 doesn’t exist across the review board. I have come across several sites, RT included, that uses 1-4 stars. There are also several bloggers who do the same. If stars are used, I think the system should be very simplistic and used by all sites. If this is an impossibility I’d like to see the rating system RT adheres to for stars.

1 Would be troublesome, 2 would be enjoyable, 3 would be good and 4 outstanding. Simple, right?

The review should never address anything about the author (we’re not reviewing the author, but the book) The review should address what made the book troublesome for the reviewer or what made it outstanding. I often see reviews that carry on about “everything” but the plot, the characters, the writing style or the author’s knowledge of the craft. Many reviews talk about “what happened” in the book and that’s not really a review of the content or the book. i.e., “I loved it when John and Margo fought the demons in the cave and they won.” That doesn’t tell us anything about the author’s ability to develop a great story and keep the reader turning the pages.  

I also want to say authors understand reviews are subjective – what one likes another will not. There is nothing wrong with not liking a book, but tell us what didn’t work for you. Don’t tell us “this woman/man is a terrible writer,” or “a second grader can write better than Jane Doe.” Again that would be subjective and quite mean-spirited on the reviewer’s part. It’s more professional to state in a clear, concise format what you liked and what you didn’t like about the book, leaving the author out of it. Authors are always at different stages of their writing careers. At one time, we were all new. Some books you read now will be from a newbie and some from veterans. It’s okay to say, “I think Jane Doe has a good start in her writing career, but this story didn’t work for me. I’d like to see more character depth in her next book.” And possibly something like, “So let’s wish her luck.” Believe me, the reader will know you didn’t care for her book and you didn’t get personal. You also look like a very mature, professional reviewer who is reviewing because you love the written word.

What do you think about sexual ratings?  Some reviewers use them.

I think it’s the author’s responsibility to clearly post the sexual content and genre in the blurb or in the request for a review. I think it’s the reviewer’s responsibility to NOT read a genre or a sexual rating they don’t like. That’s not fair to the reader or the author. One more point here: Reviews are not for authors, they are for readers who spend their hard-earned money on our books. They have a right to receive a fair, unbiased review.

I recently participated in a large blog tour with 30 reviewers who signed up for the tour. In advance of the tour, the blurbs and sexual content were sent to every reviewer (with excerpts too). By the 7th day of the tour, four bloggers forgot to post, two said they didn’t like erotic romance and one went after one of the authors pretty hard.
That’s very unprofessional and doesn’t speak well of reviewers/bloggers on a whole. I will say the host of this tour recognized the problem was with her bloggers and suspended all future tours for a time. The organizer/blogger was extremely professional.

What do reviewers do that irks you the most?

Lol- I think I outlined that above – a review of a a book because of the author’s name. The ideal review to me would be if reviewers were never given the author’s name. Think about it, you now have a book in your hand that could have been written by a NY Times best-selling author or an Indie published author. I think reviews on books would be entirely different based on this system. I don’t want a biased review – either for the good or bad. I want an honest, constructive criticism of the book, the character’s charisma, the style, the plot and the writing. I would love it if you didn’t know I wrote the book and just reviewed it on content alone. I will say this area of reviewing has improved in the last year. I see many low marks for some top authors on Goodreads and I see reviewers giving self-pubbed books a chance. Because of the explosion of ebooks and the flux in the industry right now, we will continue to see many Indie and self-pubbed books in the future. I hope reviewers continue to keep on open mind about this. Many authors don’t make it to the big publishers, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great writers.

What do you think about awards given to books by a review blogger?

If the book is outstanding, I see nothing wrong with awarding it a special nod. I would also love to see a time when both authors and reviewers realize we need one other and we’re working toward a common goal. Without the wonderful bloggers, we wouldn’t get word out about our books. But without authors putting their blood, sweat and tears into books, you wouldn’t have them to review.

Remember some authors think of their books as their “babies”. Think of raising a child for seven years (it takes some authors that long to write a book) and then at the playground someone criticizes the way your child looks or walks. Would you be hurt? I’m not saying I feel that way about my books and I’m certainly not saying a book even compares to the wonder of a child, but some authors have very strong feelings about their books. We can be rather blind when it comes to our own writing, and again, there is a professional way to tell us how we can improve to gain your loyalty.

As readers/reviewers we love book giveaways. How do you feel about them?

I like give-aways and give many books away in any given year. I would LOVE give-aways if it wasn’t for the e-piracy issue we have. Last year, over 3 Billion dollars were lost to piracy. It’s a matter of educating readers and the general public. Writing is my bread and butter. I feed my children by writing books, as do many authors. I see many bloggers displaying logos that are against e-piracy and state very openly they don’t like e-piracy. For that, we love you.

What would be your best piece of advice for a book blogger/reviewer?  What’s the turnaround time expected when you give a reviewer a book to review?

Advice: Try your very best to erase the author’s name from the book while you’re reading. Read with an open mind. We don’t ever intend to write a bad book, but it happens. We are imperfect and don’t always see what reviewers/readers see. We’re too close to the book. Again, I don’t want anyone to say my book was a 4 when they really thought it was a 2. Tell the readers in your opinion it’s a 2, and here’s why (gently).

I generally know how long I will wait for a review by doing my homework first. If I must wait 2-3 months, I will probably move on. On the other hand, I respect the enormous TBR piles bloggers/reviewers face every day.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, my sincere appreciation for the time you put into your love of books. This is a very underpaid/under-appreciated position. But I know how hard you work and I know the one thing we do have in common is that love of the written word. I hope that bond is strong and can get us past any problems.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart, Keta Diablo

Here’s an example of a very unprofessional review that appeared on Goodreads recently. Names withheld to protect the innocent. What’s the point of this review? Particularly the last *****? If the reviewer had done their homework, they would have seen that several of the 5 star reviews came from top Amazon reviewers, not authors. This type of review harms the author’s writing career. Btw, practically all the stories you read are based on seven MAIN plot themes.

Boring, bland, it's a repeat of an oft told story. I felt like I was reading a high school literary project for a magazine. It needed strong protagonists and antagonists but instead lots of shouting, fighting, tears, and internal dialogue. Ok for a quick summer read if you have a kindle and it's very inexpensive to download to your e-reader, so it would be as if you were reading a fiction story in a magazine. **** Most of the reviews of this book appear to be authors themselves and part of Goodreads; they all gave the book 5 stars. Definitely makes the ratings appear suspect.1 Star

Here’s something I’d like everyone to remember (authors and reviewers) when reviewing:
1. Thou shall have no other gods before the readerThe review is not about the author, nor the publisher, and especially, not about you, the reviewer. Reviews are all about the reader. Don’t try to impress with pompous words in an attempt to glorify yourself or appear scholarly. Give readers simplicity and clarity. They’ll appreciate it. If they want verbose and fancy, they can read Shakespeare.
2. Thou shall not lie. Honesty is what defines your trade. Without it, you’re doing nothing but selling copy. When you give facile praise or sugar-coat a book, sooner or later readers will take you for what you are: a phony. Furthermore, if you give facile praise to a poorly written book, you are perpetuating a bad writer’s career, lowering the chances that a good writer may be published instead.
3. Thou shall not offend the author. Just as honesty is important, so is tact. There’s no need to be harsh or mean. A tactfully written, well-meant negative review should offer the author insight into what is wrong with the book. Instead of saying, “This is a terrible novel!” say, “This book didn’t work for me for the following reasons…”
4. Thou shall not eat the evaluation. Some fledgling reviewers write a long blurb of the book and leave out the evaluation. The evaluation is the most important part of a review. A summary of the plot is not an evaluation. Saying, “I really liked this book” is not an evaluation. The evaluation tells the reader what is good and bad about the book, and whether or not it is worth buying.
5. Thou shall not reveal spoilers. Nobody likes to be told the ending of a movie before having watched it. The same thing is valid for a book. If you give spoilers in your review, not only do you lessen the reader’s reading experience but you also risk being sued by the publisher or author.
6. Thou shall honor grammar, syntax, and punctuation. Don’t be one of those reviewers who are more in love with the idea of seeing their name online than making sure their reviews are well-written and thorough. Your reviews may hang around on the internet for years to come and will reflect on your level as a writer. Run a spell check, edit, revise, and polish your review, as if you were posting a short story. Get a good book on grammar, and punctuation, take an online course or listen regularly to podcasts such as The Grammar Girl.
7. Thou shall honor deadlines. If you join a review site where the turnaround for reviews is 3 weeks, then you should respect that agreement. If you promise the author to have the review ready in two months, you should honor this too. Be honest and straight forward from the beginning. If you’re so busy your turnaround is six months, make sure to let the person know. If for any reasons you cannot meet the deadline, contact the person and let him know. It’s your responsibility to maintain a do-able schedule.
8. Thou shall not be prejudiced against thy neighbor. Don’t assume that a self-published or small press book is poorly written. Give it a fair chance and let it speak for itself. Likewise, never assume a book published by a major NY house has to be good. You’d be surprised by the high quality of some small press books by unknown authors, as opposed to those written by big name authors whose titles are often in the bestseller lists. In general, most subsidy books are mediocre, but there are always exceptions. If you’ve had bad experiences with subsidy books, then don’t request them nor accept them for review. If you decide to review one, though, don’t be biased and give it a fair chance.
9. Thou shall not become an RC addict. RC stands for Review Copy. Requesting RCs can get out of control. In fact, it can become addictive. You should be realistic about how many books you can review. If you don’t, pretty soon you’ll be drowning in more RCs than you can handle. When this happens, reading and reviewing can change from a fun, pleasurable experience into a stressful one. If you’re feeling frazzled because you have a tower of books waiting to be reviewed, learn to say NO when someone approaches you for a review and stop requesting RCs for a while. Unless you’re being paid as a staff reviewer for a newspaper or magazine, reviewing shouldn’t get in the way of your daily life.
10. Thou shall not steal. Remember that the books you request are being sent to you in exchange for a review. Requesting review copies and not writing the reviews is in one word: stealing. You’d be surprised at the number of “reviewers” who, after having requested several books, suddenly “disappear.” These people are not legitimate; they’re crooks, plain and simple. If you have a valid reason for not reviewing a book, let the review site editor, author, publisher, or publicist know. The same goes for piracy. “Reviewers” who request ebooks and later offer them as downloads from their sites are thieves. Integrity is part of the code of honor of a legitimate reviewer.

CREDIT: Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author of 12 books for children and adults. A reviewer for more than a decade, she’s a regular contributor toBlogcritics Magazine and the Latino Books Examiner for She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, the CBI Clubhouse, and the Children’s Writers Coaching Club. Calvani’s non-fiction book—The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing—was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner, and it’s required reading at four universities. Learn more about Mayra Calvani and or read the Write On Q&A!.

Keta is giving away PDF version of any of my books, Winner's Choice.

Todays swag giveaway from me is a lot of book cover and book excerpt

Click here for the list of giveaways I am offering for the week. 

Make sure you leave your email with your comment or question. All winners will be announced when the event is over. 

I normally don't ask, but if you enjoyed this interview and think other bloggers would enjoy enjoy this event please hit the twitter button, so we can share this with others. Thanks Laurie


  1. l totally agree! In my reviews l try not to go into detail with what happened so much but more what l liked and didn't.It's easy to get carried away and before you know it you are just telling the readers about the book and not your thoughts.
    You are the second author to say about grammar and although l agree it is important, at the end of the day we aren't professionals and l don't think too much should be judged on this. Yes it needs to be readable and proof reading is important but l have never been good at English (although it's my 1st and only language) and can sometimes get grammar wrong.

  2. sorry l didn't leave my email!
    booksforcompany @

  3. Books for Company- I totally agree with your second paragraph! We can look over a reviews several times and still miss something. We have to look at one thing we don't get paid for our work so we can pay editors to edit our work.. LOL.

    Besides each review I write means odds are someone will pay for that authors book, if it was grammar correct or not.

    I still say it's all about sharing our love for books either way you look at it. Some of us are grammar freaks and some are not what the basic thing should be is the love for reading.

  4. If this post shows up twice sorry. I think boonie net ate the first one.

    A college English prof once told me to read what ever I had wrote aloud. That would point out many grammar errors and wordiness.

    Laurie thanks for doing this. I have enjoyed each post this week. I hope you do this or something similar in the future.

    Big thanks to all the authors that participated!

  5. I have been waiting all week to read Keta's take on reviews. I had never thought of it but reading books without knowing the authors name is a great idea. Thanks to all of the authors who participated this week. I learned a ton that will help me with my reviews. Thanks to Bitten By Paranormal Romance for putting together this week of posts. Very creative. Thanks for the giveaways. (If my post pops up twice, sorry. For some reason Goggle ate my first attempt so I am typing it up again.)

  6. Hi everyone,

    Thanks so much for stopping by Laurie's blog. I want to stress how "gutsy" it was of her to tackle this sometimes controversial subject, but didn't it turn our great?

    Oh, the grammar thing . . . that's not from me, that's from Mayra Calvani, the woman who penned the commandments for reviewers. I agree with most of you -- editing does not have to perfect. I'm more interested in content of the review.

    I know we can come to an understanding because we are all working toward the same goal -- we love books! Writing them and reading them. And your job is soooo important. Why? Because you get the word out for authors and TO readers. These days, we all watch where we spend our money. It's only fair that the reader has a fair assessment of the books we write.

    Many happy reads to all of you in the coming year. And again, Laurie, you rock for bringing this subject to light.

    Namaste, Keta

  7. I agree with the comments about ratings. I think sometimes they are misleading. I use the stars when I list my books in Goodreads, but those are my opinions and I'd hate that anyone would choose a book based strictly on my stars rather than asking me "Hey, how was that book?"

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

  8. Thanks for sharing your ten commandments!

    rootml1 AT hotmail DOT com

  9. Hey Laurie, I know I said this yesterday, but I really enjoyed reading this weeks Q & A posts. I learned a lot & I hope you do it again. I have so much respect for ALL the Bloggers out there! Without all your hard (unpaid) work, my TBR pile would be very, very small. Big Thanks for all the awesome recommendation!!

  10. Keta,

    Thank you for the great insight. It's a shame that stealing via fake reviewers has turned into a common occurrence. I have found that even though I may be devoteded fan of an author, that doesn't ensure I will like all of their work. Because it has happened that I didn't. And yes, small publishers and self-publishers are producing excellent work!


  11. I think I know the blog tour you are referring to. Was it for D.H.? I visited several blogs on the list and couldn't find any posts, one blog hadn't had a post in a couple of months. It really irritated me so those blogs lost a possible follower and I'm sure it really disappointed the author.

  12. I love the idea of writing reviews without knowing the authors name, you would certainly be very honest about your opinions, plus you can't be influenced by the 'big name' authors into thinking you must write something good.

  13. What a great idea, not to know the name, then I sure would not be starstruck

  14. Laurie - I always end up missing something, l often ask someone else in my family to proof reading but this isn't always possible.
    Totally agree, l don't care about grammar really on a review, if someone loves it then l will probably get it =)
    Keta - l agree, this all came together great =) Loved reading all the authors thoughts and helped with my reviews too.

  15. That's a very good idea to read the book w/o knowing the author for an unbiased review. That was a very interesting article... thank you.
    Linda T., USA

  16. Man, this was a great series. Well thought out answers and great observations.

    Thank you all for posting. Laurie, this was a brilliant choice for topic.

  17. This was an excellent article, thank you.

    I dislike ratings also and don't use them at my blog; they are so different from blog to blog and site to site and frankly, subjective. I tend to ignore ratings and just read the review.

    I think that I already do most of what Keta mentioned but there are some areas that need improvement. I am delighted that you all ran this series.


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