Page Turners: Finding out more about the Reviewing Community
The tables have turned – this time the author’s asking the questions.
Blogs and websites have been hosting author interviews for decades, giving readers a chance to get to know their favorite writers on a more personal level. But today we’re going to flip the mold, having an author interview a book reviewer. So buckle up, grab your favorite caffeinated beverage, and prepare to dive into what makes a book reviewer tick!
Behrg: Our interview today is with David Walters of FanFiAddict, and if you haven’t yet checked out his site, be sure to check out everything they’re doing there! Beyond impressive!
So David, tell us a little about your platform. Where do you post reviews and how long have you been reviewing?
David: As you can imagine, reviewing can either stay fairly stagnant (only publishing reviews on Goodreads or Amazon) or it can evolve into something bigger. I began reviewing on a Euro website called Booknest.eu about four or so years ago after being a somewhat mainstay in the indie publishing world (as far as reviewing and social media marketing goes). After about a year, I branched off and created my own blog, FanFiAddict.com, and have since added five other bloggers to the site. The blog has only been around since October of 2017, and while we don’t have quite the traction as some others in the fantasy/sci-fi world, it has been a super enjoyable experience from reading super early copies of books to creating relationships with publishers & authors, becoming apart of a growing book community on social media and beyond. Of course, since the end of November 2019, I also started a podcast called Authors on a Podcast Talking Books where I have recorded over 25 episodes with some of the best writers/audiobook narrators in the business. It has been a blast!
Behrg: That’s quite the journey David! I’ve found the relationships you build are part of the biggest joy in this process as well.
Curious how you decided to jump into the podcast side of things? What have you learned in the process or any advice for those considering going that route?
David: Well, it was really a snap decision if I’m being honest. It was never something I really envisioned. I just knew that I wanted to add something new to my blog that not many others were doing, so I reached out to about 30ish authors and 29 of them gave me an automatic, “Absolutely; when can we start,” and it sort of clicked for me. As far as advice: do it because you want to and because it is fun; do it for the pure enjoyment. Don’t do it for the listens, because there is a chance you’ll be supremely disappointed. This is strictly a hobby of mine, and I wanted a place where I could go deeper with authors rather than surface-level social media chat. It may be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Behrg: Love the enthusiasm you have here, David. And I’m looking forward to checking out the podcast!
Outside of reading, what are some of your favorite things to do? What’s something no one in the horror/book blogging community would suspect about you?
David: I enjoy spending time with my wife and doggos. We are actually expecting our first child (a girl named Emma Kate) in June, so that’ll take up a majority of my time in the near future haha. I also enjoy video games on occasion and going to the lake. As far as something no one would suspect: I’m a pretty open person, so not much. Maybe that I am an avid bowler with a 200+ league average?
Behrg: Wow, congratulations! (On the new addition, not the bowling league average—though that deserves its own accolades!) My youngest is also named Emma, and if there’s any consolation, she’s been the easiest of our four. 🙂
David: Hey, thanks! Hah. That is good to know!
Behrg: Any favorite sub-genres under the horror umbrella? Any you don’t particularly care for? Same questions but for common tropes in the genre?
David: I read a variety, so I can’t say I prefer one over the other. I’m not HUGE on splatterpunk or over-the-top gore-fests, but I’ll read them if the story and characters catch my interest.
Behrg: Physical books or digital?
David: Depends on my mood, but probably digital as I travel a decent bit and am sort of OCD when it comes to damaging physical books. I also lean more toward audiobooks nowadays with work, etc.
Behrg: I’m a huge connoisseur of audiobooks myself as I travel quite a bit with the day-job. It actually gets me looking forward to my commute or time on a plane / at airports.
David: Absolutely. Especially if there is a really good narrator.
Behrg: Writing well-thought reviews takes time. What are some of the things that keep you going?
David: I’d have to say not writing a super in-depth review for every book you read. It can be overwhelming trying to keep your thoughts together and not write the same thing for each book. Having a relationship with authors/publishers, even if it is just surface level on social media, helps as well. The anticipation that they will like or love what you have to say keeps the juices flowing.
Behrg: Great thoughts here, and I agree with not feeling trapped into having to complete a huge write-up with every book you read. If I feel I have something to add about a particular book, I’ll do the occasional lengthy review, but I’m as apt to write a single paragraph for another book I like just as much.
With regards to that anticipation of what an author or publisher might think of your review, I often hear competing messages on this front. What are your thoughts with authors interacting with reviewers or commenting on a review that’s been posted? Okay? Not okay? Or depends on the circumstance?
David: Well, there are some competing thoughts on this. If I love a book and write a review, I’ll tag the author and publisher on Twitter with a little blurb. This has honestly never failed to get at least a like, and I love that. (Sometimes I even get an ARC of the next title if they particularly enjoy it). IN FACT, Josh Malerman is going to be framing my review of Malorie because he loved it so much. He is obviously a rarity (as well as being an amazing human being), but it does happen haha. I don’t know if it is a southern thing or not, but I grew up hearing “if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut”—not the exact phrasing but you get the gist—so negative reviews are kept to a minimum. If you tag an author in a negative review, you are asking for it.
Behrg: That’s so cool about Malerman. From everything I’ve heard, he’s just a stand-up guy.
If you had only one author you could read for the rest of your life, who would you choose and why? What if you had only three?
David: Josh Malerman. The man is a flat-out genius and has a library of novels just waiting to be published. On top of that, every single book of his is wholly original. Three authors (I’ll exclude Josh from this one): Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Tremblay, and Blake Crouch.
Behrg: I think you just nailed the holy trinity (or quadrinity?!?) of horror-(ish) authors writing in the genre today. And what’s great about each of these authors is that they have their own unique styles.
What’s some advice you could give to those just starting to build a platform to review books? What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered and how have you navigated them?
David: Don’t attempt to be like everyone else and do not get discouraged by how long it takes to get any sort of recognition/following/status boost. The book reviewing community is all about boosting one another, not yourself. You have to learn that some people have been doing this for years and you won’t automatically get the following you want or think you deserve. It is easy to become jealous of others, but you HAVE to not let it bother you. Early on, I found myself getting frustrated because I wasn’t getting approved for ARCs nor was I receiving responses to my publisher reach e-mails. But you know, you have to brush it off and keep fighting. One day, you’ll break through and you’ll never look back.
Behrg: I think this advice could as easily be given to authors as reviewers! Well said.
Favorite read of 2020 so far? Favorite read of 2019? Of all time?
David: 2020: Malorie by Josh Malerman. 2019: Recursion by Blake Crouch, followed closely by The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. Of all time???? Uhhhhh. Pass lol.
Behrg: Recursion was definitely in my top 3 for 2019 as well. Brilliant book and the execution only made it that much more intense. I just recently finished The Only Good Indians, SGJ has a style completely his own. I’m looking forward to Malorie as well!
Do you write fiction yourself and, if so, have you published anything? If not, how has reviewing books allowed you to grow as a writer?
David: I’ve wanted to write for a while and have been encouraged by my wife to do so, but I have not actually started anything. I feel that my vocabulary has steadily increased for sure, haha. I have found it easier to put my thoughts to paper, and actually build cohesive sentences.
Behrg: For me, following Blake Crouch’s early career is what actually motivated me to start writing and stop talking about writing. I had written screenplays for years, but decided to take a stab at a novel, and haven’t stopped since. His work really inspired me to give it a go, and—just like reviewing—you learn and grow through doing it.
There’s no right answer here, but how do you personally handle reviews for books you don’t care for? Do you finish every book you read or do you move on if a book isn’t grabbing you?
David: If I am not grabbed in the first 50-75 pages (1-2 hours in audio), I set it aside, mark it as read on GR, write a short reason why I am not going to finish, and move on. I don’t have time to read books I don’t enjoy. Publishers that send you review copies actually appreciate you letting them know that a book isn’t jiving. The worst thing you can do is go radio silent on them.
Behrg: Great point! What advice would you give authors looking to have their books reviewed? What are some of the best ways authors have asked you to review their book? Some of the worst? Anything you’d like to let authors know regarding the etiquette of requesting a review?
David: E-mails are great, but don’t just send one with a book and the synopsis with the expectation that something will come of it. Start off with a message of encouragement (I’ve had a chance to check out your blog…you write some really great reviews… in particular, the one about blah blah caught my attention) and then say why you think they might be interested in your work. Give the blogger an opportunity to check out your stuff before you desperately shove it in their face. Also give them some options of format.
Behrg: I think you’ve nailed a critical aspect of this, that of actually treating people like people. Seems like it’d be common sense, but I’ll often get someone messaging me about a book with zero previous interactions or introductions, just pitching me right out of the gate. And I haven’t accepted a single one of those to read and review, though that could just be me. 🙂
As part of the horror author community, let me say a huge thank you from all of us for all that you do to support indie, hybrid, and traditionally published authors. Honest reviews not only help others discover our work, but can sometimes be the encouragement an author needs to keep doing what we do. Any last words you’d like to share with authors, fellow reviewers or casual readers?
David: Authors: we all know it is tough sledding with debuts or even books 3, 4, 5 or 10, 11, 12 when it comes to garnering reviews. The book community is a great place to look for help, but I would also suggest having a writer with some credibility give you a boost. I hate to say that, but it honestly helps inform my decisions on reads sometimes.
Reviewers: keep doing you. Don’t try to emulate. Chin up, write reviews, share them, and boost others.
Readers: review the books you read. A simple sentence will suffice. Help other readers find great books, and help authors reach new readers.
Behrg: Awesome advice. The recurrent theme I’m getting from this interview is to just be yourself and let your audience grow organically. There’s a lot of negativity that can arise from comparing yourself with others when in reality we’re all just trying to promote and spread the joy of good books or stories that speak to us.
Thanks again David for joining us for this interview and for your insights! For readers interested in seeing what FanFiAddict is recommending or to connect with David, check out the links below! Be kind to each other!
Submission Policy: At the current time, not taking any submissions (baby due in June and slammed with review requests from publishers)
Youtube: FanFi Addict (new channel)
Podcast: Authors on a Podcast Talking Books
A former child actor turned wanna-be rockstar, The Behrg is the author of the Internationally best-selling novel Housebroken and the thrilling Creation Series. His short work can be found in anthologies from Bloodshot Books, Comet Press, Omnium Gatherum, and Cemetery Dance. A mental health advocate, Behrg often explores the themes of mental illness within his work, albeit within a horror backdrop.
Behrg lives in Southern California with his wife and four kids where he still plays in a band, plays in fictional worlds of his own creating, and plays—quite poorly, he might add—at being an adult.
When coloring, he does not stay within the lines.
Stalk him at www.thebehrg.com
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