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 none other than Charlene Cochrane, better known as Char, Horror Aficionados Moderator and all-around horror enthusiast!
So first off, Char, tell us a little about your platform. Where do you post reviews and how long have you been reviewing?
Char: I don’t even know how long I’ve been reviewing, isn’t that terrible? Since around 2011, I believe. I started reviewing only on Goodreads, then I added Amazon, and then my own blog. I started a Facebook page and a Twitter account and I post each review to all of these venues. I also post to NetGalley and Edelweiss if the book is an ARC.
Behrg: 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?
Char: Right now, my favorite thing to do is to float in my pool! Our most recent home has a pool and I’ve never had one before. The problem being, here in the northeast of the U.S., we only have June, July and August to enjoy it. Come September, we have to close it due to cold weather at night. I also love to eat Mexican food. And Italian. And Chinese. (I like food!) One thing no one really knows about me is that I enjoy Westerns. (I was surprised to learn this myself!) I’ve only read a few . . . by Larry McMurtry and Joe Lansdale mostly, but I’ve loved them.
Behrg: Hey, a pool three months out of the year is better than a pool zero months out of the year! 🙂 I’ll confess, while I grew up watching Westerns, it’s a genre I haven’t read much of. Any particular novels you’d suggest for a newbie checking it out?
Char: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty is AH-MAZING! Also, Paradise Sky by Joe Lansdale.
Behrg: Awesome! I’ll check them both out. Any favorite sub-genres under the horror umbrella? Any you don’t particularly care for? Same questions but for common tropes in the genre?
Char: Right now, my appetite for gory and extreme horror has faded. These days I prefer my horror quiet or cosmic. However, I do love me a good creature feature from time to time! I also love horror from the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
Behrg: Quiet horror, to me, can sometimes be louder than the most extreme in-your-face gore-fests. It’s all about the suspense and how carefully it can be woven into the fabric of the novel.
Char: I, too, believe that to be true. I have always believed that the “thing” behind the door is way scarier than what we see once that door is opened.
Behrg: Physical books or digital?
Behrg: Good answer! Writing well-thought reviews takes time. What are some of the things that keep you going?
Char: For me, a great book will inspire me to write a review so I can tell other readers about it. I want to share, share, share! What really keeps me going is when a reader to whom I’ve recommended a book, comes back to tell me how much they enjoyed it. That really makes it worth it for me.
Behrg: Such a great point. I think as readers we could all do better at letting others know when their reviews have prodded us to purchase a book.
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?
Char: Boy, that’s tough! If I absolutely had to choose, I would pick Joe Lansdale. He has so many books in so many different genres-he would keep me busy for a long while. If I could pick three, I’d go with Joe Lansdale, John Connolly and Robert McCammon.
Behrg: Great list!
Behrg: 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?
Char: I would advise a new reviewer not to get too bogged down with promises to review. There is such demand right now for reviewers, it’s quite easy to over “book” (see what I did there?) yourself and at a certain point it begins to feel like work. You don’t want something that you do for fun or as a hobby, to turn into an obligation. I have had to close for new requests to review because I’ve gotten so far behind.
Behrg: I’m so glad you’re bringing this up as I see this happen to a lot of reviewers who hit the ground running. Often there’s this pressure, whether self-imposed or not, to read more, review more, or try to keep up with what other reviewers are doing. If it goes unchecked you can easily burn yourself out, and I’ve seen this happen with some reviewers I respect. Keep a healthy balance, and remember we read for entertainment and the joy it brings us, not to prove we can hit a certain number of books every year.
Char: Yes, exactly!
Behrg: Favorite read of 2020 so far? Favorite read of 2019? Of all time?
Char: So far this year, my favorite is Spungunion by John Boden. My favorite of 2019 was John Langan’s fabulous The Fisherman. My favorite of all time is Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon.
Behrg: Excellent—I hadn’t heard of Spungunion but will now be checking it out!
Char: Mark my words now: You won’t be sorry.
Behrg: 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?
Char: I do not write fiction. I think I have a decent command of the English language, I just don’t have any original ideas! I believe I’ve grown as a writer of reviews, because I’m forced to find new adjectives to describe excellent books. It’s a great problem to have!
Behrg: Ha! Definitely a good problem to have! And I agree, writing reviews is an excellent way to become a better writer.
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?
Char: I used to feel obligated to finish every book I started, but not anymore. As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to realize that I don’t have enough time left to read all the books I want to read before I die. I’ve since instituted a 10 %-ish limit-if I’m not hooked by around 10%, I ditch it and move on. I rarely rate or review if I stop reading that soon. Sometimes I give it a little longer to wow me, and if so, I might give it a rating with a quick explanation. If I read the entire book and didn’t care for it, (VERY rare), I will rate and review it on Goodreads and my blog, but I won’t go out of my way to share it everywhere, like I do positive reviews. I don’t tag authors in my posts either, if my review is 3 stars or less, out of 5 stars. That’s just me.
I wrote an essay on Reviewer’s Etiquette which can be found HERE
Behrg: We could probably stop this whole series of interviews just by having people read your article! Such great content here and I’d encourage everyone reading this to check it out. I particularly like your thoughts on the drama that can occasionally pop up in reviewer circles. It is okay to disagree with someone’s review or have a differing opinion, and I love the conversations that can be sparked in discussing what did or didn’t work for one reader or another. But, as you say, it should be a respectful conversation. We’re all adults here, there’s no need to bash someone else for having a differing opinion. And love your “closing statement” — YOU. DO. YOU.
Char: Thanks for your kind words. I’m blushing. 😊
Behrg: 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?
Char: Great question! I would advise new authors to approach a reviewer with respect and consideration. Check out their blogs first, become familiar with the types of books that person, (or site) is reviewing. Are they in the same genre as yours? If so, check out that reviewer’s submission parameters/guidelines, and then meet them as best you can. If the reviewer’s site clearly says they’re closed, please respect that and don’t message them with your request anyway.
Approaching a reviewer with no knowledge of the types of books they review, or what their rules are, is almost guaranteeing yourself a negative response. Last week, an author posted onto my Char’s Horror Corner Facebook page that his book was on sale. An author who doesn’t follow me, who isn’t a Facebook “friend”, who didn’t even “like” my page or introduce himself in any way posted to my page. What is up with that? (Needless to say, it was deleted, but what nerve, right?)
In the Goodreads community, I would advise authors to join groups that specialize in whatever genre in which that author is writing. Then, proceed to participate here and there within that group. Do not go in and self-promote everyone to death, but instead get to know some of the members. Maybe participate in a group read, something like that. If what you have to say resonates with someone, they will click your profile and perhaps look into your books. If not, what have you lost, other than a small amount of time?
One of the worst things I’ve experienced is bullying from authors regarding, among other things, declining to read their book, (sample is terrible, full of misspellings, etc..), pointing out their book is in a genre I rarely read, (romance, for instance), or asking them not to self-promote in areas where that is not allowed. (I am one of the moderators of Horror Aficionados on Goodreads and self-promotion in areas where it’s not allowed has been a problem in the past.) At one point I was even listed as a bully on an author site which upset me greatly. Another thing that has happened to me is having an author get angry or upset that I haven’t reviewed their book yet, or somehow puts pressure on me to get it done. Believe me when I say that reviewers talk, especially in the horror community, and that author’s name will get around. We really do want to read your book, but if you’re going to be a jerk about it, well . . . there are plenty of other books out there, you know?
Behrg: Great advice here, Char. Let me dive into your thoughts on GoodReads a little more, as I often hear authors who are afraid to get involved over there. First, let me say, I believe GoodReads is a site for READERS, not authors trying to promote themselves. I’ve been using GoodReads for a few years now and post reviews on the site for most books I read, and I’ve made connections with people who have responded or liked my reviews and maybe even checked out some of my own work. But how would you respond to authors who may have heard they should avoid the GoodReads site?
Char: Thank you! I wholeheartedly agree that Goodreads if a site for READERS. I would go even further and say REVIEWS are for READERS. My advice to authors would be to refrain commenting on reviews of your book that are less than positive. Just don’t do it. If the reviewer is popular, their friends will notice your comments and most likely jump in to defend their friend. If your comments are nasty and/or personal, that reviewer’s friends might jump in to defend them. Believe me when I say things can quickly get out of hand and this is not a case of “any publicity is good publicity.” Try to ignore it, or vent personally to your friends, (not in public), and if there’s anything that reviewer noted that is constructive, try to learn from it and move on.
Behrg: 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?
Char: Thanks so much! Most of us do this as a hobby and at times it feels more like a thankless job instead. As far as last words, I would say “Be kind.” If you dislike a book, that’s fine, but there’s no need for name-calling or derisive comments about the author personally. Try to remember that authors are people too, and they have feelings. You have the right to say whatever you like in your review, but there’s no reason to be outright mean.
Behrg: I would echo this sentiment about reviewers as well! Thanks so much Char for your insights! For those interested in checking out Char’s reviews or recommendations, see the links below. Be kind to each other!
Please follow Char on Twitter @Charrlygirl
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
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