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Guest Post: Read, Reflect, Review by Cathy Speight

In Guest Blogger, Reviewing on December 9, 2012 at 12:01 am

I am absolutely thrilled to introduce my latest Guest Blogger, book reviewer Cathy Speight. In this wonderfully informative post, Cathy shares some very constructive tips, and much of her own wisdom, on the criteria which make for a good review and a good reviewer. A very big welcome to you, Cathy!  And thank you so much for accepting my invitation to be my guest here.

Hello everyone!

Well, I won’t bore you with a long and dreary bio, but just so that you know a little about me, my name is Cathy Speight, I live in Bristol, UK, am married, have twin daughters, and three (nearly four) grandchildren.  I opted for retirement four Cathy Speight Reviewer Guest Blogging on aecurzon.wordpress.comyears ago when the company I worked for relocated to London and then last year, I did two things:  I signed up to Facebook (I’m a late developer), and I bought myself a Kindle.  Those two things are actually how I find myself here.  Thank you, Amelia, very much indeed for inviting me along.

The Kindle revolutionised my reading.  After only one eBook  I was well and truly hooked, and I joined a number of Facebook book groups where I met a hitherto unknown (to me) group of people:  indie authors.  I discovered an Aladdin’s Cave of indie books, got chatting to lots of authors and—long story short—I found myself creating my own review blog.  For me, clicking the last page of the book wasn’t quite The End. Complete closure was writing about what I thought of the book.  And lo, Cath ‘n’ Kindle Book Reviews was born—an album or an anthology of all my Kindle books.

Having reviewed for a couple of book-reviewing sites, I picked up some very useful hints about writing reviews, and together with what I personally like to see, I’d like to share those elements I believe make a good review and offer some ‘tips and wrinkles’ (where did that expression come from?) about becoming a reviewer:

  • Read the book from beginning to end (not as obvious as it sounds!) and carefully. (I have been known to read a page three times if I thought I hadn’t read every word).
  • Were the characters well-conceived, varied enough, did you like the heroes/heroines?
  • The plot—was it well-structured? Were there any loose threads?
  • Did you like the author’s style—was it suited to the genre?
  • The pace of the story—too fast, too slow?
  • Did it evoke any emotions? Did you cry or laugh?
  • Was the dialogue natural?
  • Was it well edited?
  • Would you recommend the book?
  • Would you read another book by the author?
  • A detailed synopsis of the story isn’t too important as there is always one at the point of purchase—but of course, it’s difficult to talk about the book without reference to the story, so keep it short with no spoilers—please, no  spoilers.
  • Try and be sensible about the length of your review—too short, and there are too many unanswered questions for the potential reader: ‘this was a good book, couldn’t put it down, I could relate to the heroine, and loved the ending’ isn’t going to influence a reader very much.  By the same token, if your review is too long—you will lose a reader’s interest—not just in the review, but maybe even in the book.
  • Most importantly, if you expect a well-edited, well-presented book from an author, I feel the very least you can do is give the same in return, so there should be no typos, spelling mistakes, etc.

Finally:

  • What didn’t you like and why?  This is the most ‘delicate’ part of reviewing. Don’t be afraid to say if you didn’t like a book—but be constructive, try to be helpful, and above all, don’t be nasty or abusive.  Not liking the book because you didn’t like the subject matter is, well, a bit of a non-starter.  Don’t read a book in a genre you know you don’t like or deals with a subject in which you have no interest or would prefer not to read about;  you just won’t be able to give an objective review

Try to take a bigger-picture view.  Not long ago, I posted a review on Amazon of what I thought was an excellent book. I discovered nearly 60 reviews, most of them good. I don’t often read reviews after I’ve read a book, but I was intrigued (and surprised) by the one- and two-star reviews. I thought it was a very good book, how could it possibly be worth only one or two stars? Had these readers put their reviews on the wrong page? Of course, we all have different tastes, and one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but when I looked at these reviews more closely I thought they were a tad harsh.

The review was for a detective thriller. Amongst others, there were comments about certain issues that would never have happened in real life. Well, no, quite possibly that was true, but this is fiction. Isn’t that part of why we read? To escape from an ordinary real life? Isn’t that true of all entertainment, films, and drama shows? How many times have you said to yourself, yeah, like that really happens. But it’s drama, so we cut a little slack. Because it’s all good fun. Poetic licence is allowed.

Every book that lands in my lap for review is to me an extraordinary achievement by another human being and one I could never accomplish.

So before slapping one star on a book you didn’t like, it’s worth taking a moment to step back and reflect how that book got to be on your Kindle/eReader. It didn’t just happen. It may have taken years of hard work and dedication, first by the author and then a team of people doing their best, both parties keen to continue to improve in their respective crafts.  A little encouragement is one of the things that helps this process along.

A very handy tip for authors when they self-edit, is to step back from their potential bestselling masterpiece for a few weeks, even months, before rereading it.  A little break before writing a review is something I also advise.  Not weeks, though:  if you’re anything like me, I’ve forgotten characters’ names almost as soon as I’ve dived into the next book.  But after a few days, it’s surprising how differently you feel about a book.  I have sometimes upgraded from a two-star rating to a four-star rating after having had a few days to ‘digest’.

Judging by the number of books I have waiting to be read and reviewed, it would appear that there can never be enough reviewers!  Your to-be-reviewed list will grow rapidly to almost daunting proportions. Authors—especially indie authors—surf the ‘net searching for book reviewers and their blogs, and if their searches find you, you’ll be overwhelmed by requests.  Keeping to the genres you like (but don’t be afraid to try one you think you might) will keep your review list to a manageable level (says she whose TBR is quite off the radar).

Finally and most importantly, enjoy yourself: have fun writing your reviews, start a review blog, and share them!

Cath ‘n’ Kindle Book Reviews

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Indies Unlimited

Challenging The Market

In Guest Blogger, The Book Market on June 17, 2012 at 12:01 am

A huge welcome to my guest Blogger for the week, Michael Madden.  Michael shares his views on the traditional publisher’s stock response of: “There is no market for it”

As an aspiring author I have received numerous rejection letters, as I am sure many of you have. Some are standard “No thanks” type responses, whilst others are along the lines of “It’s not really for us but good luck elsewhere”. Another one that I have encountered is “There is no market for it”, and whilst the publishers and literary agents are quite happy to stick with their cosy, established markets, I believe that these assertions should be challenged.

I produced the children’s picture book “Ole And Zac And The Port Of Tumbattle” almost by accident. The story was written during a rainy holiday in Barbados, and I completed it by getting local schoolchildren to do the illustrations, with all proceeds from the finished book going to the school charity.

Author Michael Madden - Guest Blogger on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"I did not write the book with a market in mind, and was not surprised when it was rejected (“too long for a picture book”), but I was not too disappointed either. Self publishing “Tumbattle” taught me a lot. I learnt about typesetting, proof reading, editing. It also taught me more about Dr Seuss, and how clever Theodore Seuss Geisel really is.

My next venture was an adult orientated humorous novel entitled Stags! I had it professionally critiqued, and whilst they made a few suggestions the overall view was that it was well written, the humour was well constructed and the characterization was believable. The only problem was the lack of a market, and they pointed out that the genre of “laddish fiction” no longer existed since the days of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. I was, and still am, determined to challenge this, as I believe that not only is there a male market out there, there are more and more women listening to and watching traditionally male comedians such as Frankie Boyle and Frank Skinner, thus challenging previously accepted stereotypes. As soon as I have the marketing budget, I will put my fully constructed marketing plan into action!

That brings me on to my latest challenge, Mmm…No1…Cookbook was released in May 2012. Originally I devised the cook book so that I could have all of my recipes in one place, on the Kindle. My wife, however, had other ideas. She wanted the paperback in every bookshop, and she set about taking photographs of a large pan of paella for the cover. The challenges came in thick and fast. “No one reads a Kindle in the kitchen”, “You can’t have a cookery book with no pictures”, “There’s no market for it”.

Slowly but surely these challenges were offset by opportunities. A recipe on Kindle provides a ready made list of ingredients with which to go shopping. The lack of pictures is not really a problem. The appearance of most of the recipes in Mmm…No1…Cookbook is either self evident or does not really matter. The last time I looked there were 777 items listed in the UK Kindle store under the term “Cookery Book”. If the search is widened to all departments that hit count rises to over 91,000. Some might interpret those figures as meaning there is little or no market for a Kindle cookery book, however, the more optimistic of us would certainly see that as a huge gap in the market.

When a literary agent or publisher says there is no market for a genre, that probably means that there are no books written in that genre which then leads to no more books being written in that genre. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy, and one that self published authors should not be afraid to challenge.


Michael Madden lives in the Peak District in England, and has worked for many years in the IT industry, as a result of which he has been quoted in publications as prestigious as the New York Times. He has self published three titles, the children’s picture book “Ole And Zac And The Port Of Tumbattle”, the adult humorous novels “Stags!” and “Mmm…No1…Cookbook”, a cookery book aimed at Kindles. He also writes for local journals and newspapers, on subject matter ranging from Olympic hopefuls to Narrow Boats, and even a preview and review of a performance by rockabilly legend Sleepy Labeef, that included an interview with the singer himself.

You can read my blog at http://www.mmm-number-1.blogspot.co.uk/ and visit my website at http://www.michael-madden.co.uk/

Mmm...No1...CookbookMmm…No1…Cookbook byMichael Madden is now on sale as an eBook and in paperback
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