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: Today’s interview is with Garrett Witt of Dead Head Reviews, a huge advocate of the horror genre. So tell us Garrett a little about your platform. Where do you post reviews and how long have you been reviewing?
Garrett: I started off reviewing in the back end of 2017. I had been following some reviewers for a few months and was seeing a lot of promotion of books that grabbed my interest. Mix that with one of the most caring communities out there, and I decided I had to join. I started out reviewing on Goodreads and Amazon, of course. Then, I eventually started my own review page titled Dead Head Reviews and it took off from there.
Behrg: You’ve touched on something that’s often overlooked, as well as something that’s just as often debated, regarding the “horror community.” I, too, have found a lot of support and friendships through the horror community, but I also hear from others who have a hard time settling in or feel like they’re never “allowed in.” What suggestions would you give to someone who’s looking to make connections?
Garrett: There is definitely some tight bonds within this community. I see them growing stronger every day. I understand how some can feel overwhelmed or feeling not “allowed in” but honestly, you just have to put your foot in the door. Almost everyone I’ve had contact with or made friends with were super nice and supportive from the get-go. I think the best thing to do is to just put yourself in the community. Retweet, like, and comment as much as you can/want to! That may sound daunting but it’s how I started. If I see something that strikes my Interest. I’ll make sure I say so. Over time you’ll grow connections and relationships with the right people. If anyone still feels this way, feel free to message me and I can help point you in the right direction!
Behrg: Your response encompasses everything I love about this community. For those who do have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. Before I published my first novel, I reached out to several well-known indie authors for advice. Every one of them was gracious and helpful and became an advocate for my work, in one way or another. It just takes stepping outside your comfort zones, while being sure to maintain professionalism and not have unrealistic expectations.
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?
Garrett: I’m actually a rather simple man. I work a lot to provide for my fiancée and two sons. Most of my time is caught up between work and family life but I do enjoy video games and I’m a huge movie buff. I also am into all types of music, mainly metal. I follow the NBA religiously kind of as a hobby, I suppose.
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?
Garrett: I’ve always said that I love a good Haunted House story. Nothing gets under my skin more than a well crafted ghost tale. The unexplainable is what freaks me out the most. Being attacked by something you can’t see? YIKES! I also really enjoy apocalyptic fiction. I can’t say there’s one sub-genre I dislike because there is still a handful of of them I’ve yet to dive into. I would say cosmic horror has a hard time grabbing my attention though.
Behrg: “The unexplainable” is such a crucial element to most horror tales when you think about it. Naturally creating that suspense or the desire to find out what, where, how, or even when. Any favorite ghost stories or haunted house novels you’d recommend?
Garrett: Absolutely! I have so many still left to read but some good ones that come to mind are:
— Come Closer by Sara Gran. This is a possession story of a woman that does not let up. Nor do things get better for her as the story goes.
— The Nightmare Room by Chris Sorenson. The Nightmare Room is the first book of The Messy Man series. Chris is a great writer who knows how to conjure up some wicked stuff.
— The Demonic by Lee Mountford. Also a possession story, this one centers around a family of four and truly has some terrifying scenes. I loved it!
Behrg: Great list! Thanks for sharing. When it comes to physical books versus digital, what’s your take?
Garrett: Oh, man. I used to adore the hell out of a new physical copy. I still do. However, the convenience of having a digital copy is too wonderful to pass up. I read mostly on digital these days so I would give a slight edge to digital.
Behrg: I fall into the same camp here. The convenience and ability to keep so many books in one device have just made it easy for me to make an almost complete jump. Writing well-thought reviews takes time. What are some of the things that keep you going?
Garrett: I draw inspiration from numerous reviewers. Steve Stred and John Lynch to name a few. Everyone over at Dead Head Reviews is amazing as well. I think that’s what drives me the most. There are so many great people in this industry that try so hard (for free!) to get the name of great books and authors out there. I just want to do my part.
Behrg: Honestly, this is the reason I decided to host these interviews with reviewers–I see so many amazing people giving of their time to share something they love and there’s so few ways to really give back (other than authors continuing to write the next book). I’m inspired by every one of you who help me discover new works or help move a few additional books for those authors who aren’t yet household names.
Garrett: It’s a pleasure to be involved with this project, truly. I believe I can speak for my fellow reviewers when I say thank you for your time and effort with these interviews. We love doing what we do, but it is nice being on the other side of it!
Behrg: Absolutely my pleasure! Let me ask, 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?
Garrett: This is a tough one! Man, I’m not sure . . . okay, I’m going to go with Andrew Cull. His debut collection Bones was superb. I haven’t even read Remains yet (I will very soon) but he quickly became an author that I’ll instantly read something new from. I think he has a very bright future in this horror world. I would pick Kealan Patrick Burke and Gemma Amor as my other two!
Behrg: Excellent choices! Cull is on his way to a hugely promising career. Kealan is by far the gold standard when it comes to quality and originality, and Gemma has hit the scene like a freight train. All three are on my insta-buy list.
Garrett: I could not agree with you more. Each writer brings uniqueness to the table. KPB was actually the author of the first horror books I read when I started reading again. You may have heard of his novella Sour Candy? It completely rekindled my love for horror books and I haven’t let up since.
Behrg: Loved Sour Candy. And Kealan is certainly one of those authors I mentioned early in my writing career who was kind enough to help an unknown, bright-eyed, no-clue-what-he-was-doing-would-be author out. For those who don’t know, Kealan also creates amazing book covers with his company Elder Lemon Design. I highly recommend his service.
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?
Garrett: My best advice to give is not to rush it and not to take on too much at one time. I’m a perfectionist and feel like I need to have everything done at one time. I’m a slow reader also so that’s a hurdle that took me a while to get over. I even had to take some time away because I felt stressed and had no time to read and review. So I say take your time and just have fun with it! We’re all here because we love the thrills and chills.
Behrg: This is such good advice! Too often I feel reviewers–especially new ones just jumping into the scene–can feel this pressure to try and keep up with others and make a name for themselves. In doing so, what once brought them joy can actually become what feels like work!
I’m curious as to your thoughts of being a self-described “slow reader,” as I fall into this category myself. I have a tough time skimming and want to read every word, plus there’s the balancing act of spinning all those plates with life, social, family, work, etc. How long did it take you to find a good balance and any tips for those who may be pushing themselves too hard?
Garrett: I’m a very slow reader, mainly because it’s hard to find time to sit down for a prolonged time and just read. Once I can find a rhythm I can usually knock the pages out. I wouldn’t say I have a balance, even after two years of doing this. I just try to read whenever I can. Any time I’m sitting or waiting for at least a few minutes, I’ll pull up my kindle and get to work.
I will be the first to tell you not to overload yourself. I absolutely did not follow this advice and became too stressed to even think about everything I had to do. I decided that I needed to look at this as more fun than work. I’d rather take my time with a story and have fun and enjoy it. Most authors are very understanding of all the reviews we have just waiting for us to get to. I’ve never had an author rush me for a review. So just have fun with it!
Behrg: Favorite read of 2020 so far? Favorite read of 2019? Of all time?
Garrett: Dark Celebrations by Calvin Demmer is my favorite book of 2020! A great collection of everything horror with a fantastic ending to boot. 2019 was a great year for me reading and is very hard to pick a favorite. I’d have to go with We Live Inside Your Eyes by Kealan Patrick Burke or Inspection by Josh Malerman. Although I could add another 10 to this list easy. Favorite book of all time has to go to Kill Creek by Scott Thomas. Just an amazing novel. It’s very hard to decide though, there is so many great books out there.
Behrg: I adored Kill Creek, such an ingenious little mind trap. I haven’t read Dark Celebrations, but will now be checking it out! 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?
Garrett: I dabbled into writing a good bit when I was in high school but I haven’t wrote much since, sadly. I have many ideas going back and forth in my head but I always psyche myself out before I can get them on paper. It’s rather daunting and another hurdle I’m trying to jump.
Behrg: I’d suggest your advice about reading could relate just as well to writing–don’t rush it, take your time and just have fun with it!
Garrett: Thank you! I just need to start putting it on paper. I’ve heard many times that starting is the hardest part. I got this!
Behrg: 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?
Garrett: Not every book is going to strike my fancy. That’s just how it is with reading. Some will like and some will not. I personally try to see a story to its end. I usually stick around longer than I mean to, just to see if there will be a redeeming quality down the road. However, if you’ve read half a story and still can’t find yourself into it, it’s probably best to give that one up for a while. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve really liked all the books that have come my way for a review, so I haven’t been in a position to do a negative review. I do think I would rather admit that I didn’t finish and just leave it at that. Something I post in a review for a book I didn’t finish might make someone skip out on reading that book, when they would have loved it all along!
Behrg: Love your thoughts here. 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?
Garrett: When Patrick McDonough joined me in Dead Head Reviews, he immediately brought up an idea to help control the income of book reviews. He set up guidelines and a structure, truly awesome work. I believe for a big review platform it is essential to have a simple, direct way for authors to request reviews. He and the team that we created is the reason it’s a great platform in the industry. I still contribute, but those guys run the show now and are killing it! Figuratively, of course.
Behrg: By income, I’m assuming the hundred dollar bills are just rolling in for the reviews you guys do, right? 🙂
Garrett: Hahaha, sadly there’s no hundred dollar bills flying my way but I will keep my eyes peeled for when they decide to!
Behrg: What about your personal review policy? Anything you look for from authors?
Garrett: Personally I’m open to all ways. Authors can send me a direct message on Twitter, or shoot me an email. That’s usually how I receive a request. Just a quick honest message. I’ve also messaged first to ask the author if they had any review copies. I would recommend that authors give a detailed description of your book when sending a request. Most reviewers have a lot on their TBR list and won’t have so much interest in a message that’s just asking, “hey, would you mind reviewing my book ‘such and such?’” We, as reviewers, love enthusiasm!
Behrg: Great comments here. Often times authors can be introverts and it can be difficult for them to reach out or put themselves out there. I really like your advice to have enthusiasm and be proud of your work, while keeping things honest and real.
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.
For those interested in learning more about Dead Head Reviews, check out their site info below, and be sure to leave a comment thanking Garrett and his team for all they do!
Submission Policy: HERE
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
Check out The Behrg’s GoodReads page HERE
The Behrg’s Amazon author page can be found HERE
Follow The Behrg on Twitter @TheBehrg
Facebook: Do people still use that thing?
The Behrg Free Fiction: HERE