‘From the Shadows I Review’ Char, shows us some Indie love!

947010_4229721879863_122281819_nToday we’re back to the book blogger feature.  For the rest of this week I’ll have another round of guest posts from my lovely reviewer friends.  Today is the turn of Char Sharp.  Like most of the book reviewers I’ve met since I started publishing, I first came across Charmaine (I’m not sure if I sound like I’m scolding her when I call her Charmaine but we’ll go with it!) on Twitter.   She is very entertaining and refreshingly honest online so I warmed to her immediately.

The thing I love about Char’s reviews is that she always able to pinpoint specifics. Each review is thorough and she breaks it down into very specific aspects, which is great and shows that even if she hasn’t particularly liked a book, she’s still given it a great deal of thought.  I like the way she includes thoughts on the cover, blurb and pricing. If she doesn’t like something, she says so, but that honesty gives her reviews integrity.  Here’s what she had to say in response to my questions about reviewing:

What peeves you when authors request reviews?

So something I’ve realised while blogging is that authors expect certain things from bloggers. It’s like an unspoken blogging etiquette thing that all reviewers pick up along the way. For example some of them are negotiable like some of us (me!) will post negative reviews while others choose not to. Either way is cool in my opinion. However sometimes the reaction from authors is… rude, childish and downright inconsiderate. So what I thought I’d do, is explain a few things authors can do to make friends not enemies with the blogging community.

  • Don’t just send your book to random blogs – Do your homework. Read a blog properly. If you look over the post titles you’ll find out what type of books the blogger reads. Read a few reviews, you’ll see the blogger’s style. We all have different individual styles. Mine tend to be in depth yet focused. If you only want positive reviews, you have 2 choices: 1. Go to a blog that doesn’t post reviews with ratings under 3 stars (I personally don’t trust those blogs but whatever floats your boat.). or 2. Make sure that the blogger you’re approaching is a fan of your genre. Otherwise you’re risking a negative review.
  • Sell your book to the blogger – Tell me about your book! Don’t just say “Will you review my book?” I used to chase up authors that did that. I’d ask them to send me the blurb, now it’s a straight up refusal. I don’t want to be rude, but you’re asking for my time, the least you can do is add your synopsis to your email. I don’t want your GR link, I don’t want your Amazon page. I want to know what I’m being asked to read. So yes, we’re giving you our time, please appreciate that.
  • Deal with a negative review with grace [Part 1] – Someone didn’t like your book, it’s not the end of the world. If you can’t take the criticism, you’re not ready to be a published author. If you feel you must read the review, read it properly. Take the time to find out what the blogger didn’t like.
  • Deal with a negative review with grace [Part 2] – For the love of all that is nice in this world don’t take to your blog/Facebook/Twitter/Goodreads and insult the reviewer! All that happens is the reviewer talks to another reviewer, who talks to another reviewer and your reputation is dead. We’re a community, we don’t like authors who don’t respect us. I would never insult an author in a review. Your book is what I’m reviewing not your lifestyle choices, your imagination, you as a person in general. I don’t like your book, I’m sorry. I will apologise for this in my review, I’ll also tell you why as best I can. Don’t resort to insulting me and slagging me off as a person. It’s hurtful. You don’t know anything about me, bullying is not acceptable on any level.

How can authors help you to help them?

  • Don’t be afraid to specify where you’d like your review posted – So, you’ve asked for a review, the blogger has said yes (oh happy days!) and they’ve reviewed it and showed it to you. Now by default I’ll post my reviews to GR and my blog. If you want Amazon ask me! I don’t bite! Seriously though, if you ask I’ll use my mum’s account and post the review on Amazon (I don’t have an Amazon account, I don’t want one, we have a family one.) because you’ve taken the time to ask me.
  • Take the time to promote – Essentially, wonderful indie authors, I’m showcasing my thoughts on your book, I’m giving you airtime on my blog, so how about you return the favour? It’s not obligatory but it always makes me happy when an author RTs a tweet about my review or promotes on their blog or Facebook page. It’s a sign of appreciation and it makes me want to hunt you down to hug you. I review because I love books, I review indie because I love the relationship between indie authors and reviewers. It breaks down a barrier between readers and traditionally published authors, take advantage of that!! (Although, some traditionally published authors are fantastic on Twitter. Rachel Caine, Sophie McKenzie & Michelle Zink have all RT’d me and Michelle tweeted me. I heart her!)

The same genre can encompass many different types of story – for example, fantasy ranges from Terry Pratchett to Twilight and everything in between. How hard is it to remain objective in your review if a feature of a book doesn’t float your boat? Say you get a fantasy about unicorns and unicorns are just not your bag!

I read the synopsis before I accept a book for review. However sometimes even that doesn’t save you from falling victim to a book you wouldn’t normally read. If a story isn’t what the blurb says it’s gonna be I do point it out but I try to review it for what it is not what I thought it was. For the most part I try not to let emotions get in the way but I fail sometimes. Rarely though.

What are your feelings on the growing army of indie authors?

I love them. There are some really lovely authors that I adore and talk to a lot on Twitter. I love how accessible they are and how willing they are to get involve with bloggers and that. (“and that” is obviously a technical term. I just don’t know what for.)

How does the quality of their work hold up against traditionally published? Do you accept reviews from both and what would it take to change your mind on your current policy?

The quality varies. Some indies are obviously self publishing for a reason (sorry guys!)  and it shows. There are also some that are badly edited and just (nearly) impossible to read. However, there are some stunning indie authors and I always want to praise the God of reading (who I shall call Frank for no reason whatsoever) when I discover their books. I accept both indie and trad books. I have been known to change my review policy because of authors. I had to add that if they didn’t send me book info they’d get a flat out refusal. I think my current policy is solid though.

Describe your reviewing schedule. How many hours do you put in a week/ day? How does this impact on other aspects of your life?

I have a rough schedule but I rarely manage to keep it up. I think it’s going to even out at 4-5 posts a week. I read a lot and a review can take hours to write. Especially if I handwrite it first (I’ve been known to do this. In pencil. I’m a leftie. Pen’s a pain.). I don’t think it overly impacts anything. I have agoraphobia so I have to do something inside might as well be something productive. (Would like to point out I’m getting better!

What started you book blogging?

I wanted somewhere to give my honest opinions on books. I know I could do that on Goodreads or Amazon but I wanted a place to call my own and I really wanted a blog called ‘From the Shadows I Review’ yes… I had the name before the blog… GO ME!!!

What makes you continue to do it?

I love what I do. I have an audience that likes what I do.  While I have get hits on the blog and people telling me I’m good at what I do I’ll keep doing it. (It also gives me something to focus on).

I think that’s the main points. I’m not saying you have to do these things but it’d be so awesome if you did! I love YA, I love indie! Indie YA is two of my favourite things in one! So this is my great excuse for giving you a few tips on making your author life a happy one! I can’t guarantee all bloggers do it like me but I’m a one off *insert cheesy wink*!! So I hope you like my author etiquette pointers and I hope that encourages you to stop by From the Shadows I Review sometime!! (Sorry! Had to get the self promotion in there!) Hey… maybe you’ll ask me to review your book!! Wouldn’t that be the best? Okay, getting excited and ahead of myself. I’m stopping while I’m ahead.

I love you indie authors and especially the hostess with the mostest, the delightful Sharon, for allowing me to come and be Char the Indie Author Agony Aunt on her blog!

Be sure to check out Char on her website, as she has very kindly linked for old lazy bones me above.  You can also follow her on Twitter and be entertained almost hourly!  Tomorrow we’ll be hearing from Jack Croxall, who not only writes fantastic novels himself, but reviews others on his website , for an insight into how being an author influences the way you review.

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