Monday, May 19, 2014

What compels readers to review books online? Guest Post by Carla Caruso

As an author, I tend to read book reviews with one eye open and the other shut. Just in case I spy something amid the text I don’t really want to see – then I can close the other peeper quick-smart!

On the other hand, there are also book reviews that, as a writer, make your heart sing. When you realise that that little novel you squirreled away in your office writing each weeknight, thinking nobody’d care and you could have better spent your time watching Revenge reruns? Well, somebody actually ‘got’ that story and felt compelled enough to gush about it to the world via their blog, Goodreads, et al.

Since being published, I’ve become intrigued by the world of book reviewers. What compels them to one day sit at their computer and start blogging about a tome – for free. What continues to feed their reading/reviewing addiction. Whether they communicate with other reviewers like some kind of secret club, ‘bitching’ about the bad books they’ve just read or feverishly anticipating the next offerings from favourite authors together. How they fit in their book blogging around their day-to-day lives. If the people they know in ‘real-life’ – beyond the online world – actually know about their obsession with reviewing. What they hope will become of their impulse to blog about books. When they think they’ll stop. Whether they ever feel like chucking in the towel and just reading a book for fun. How the book blogging ‘feeds’ their soul…

I’m so intrigued by all this in fact that I’m set to write a novella with a romance reviewer at its centre (due out around the festive season). And I would love to hear from book reviewers to help accurately ‘shape’ my heroine – starting with Tara from Book Babe! I’ve grilled her, as below. Would love to hear your comments also...

-When did you start your blog, Tara, and why?

Tara: It was 2010. At that point, most of my reading friends had blogs so it was always an idea in the back of my head, but I didn't take the plunge until a publisher emailed me asking me to read and review a book featuring a woman pilot. I had started the women in aviation group on Goodreads. Other than that, there was nothing making me an appealing reviewer to publishers. I accepted the offer. They sent me an email saying the book was on the way and they looked forward to seeing it on my blog...and I was like, "Uh oh." So..I started a blog. LOL 

I've kept it up because it's become a fun hobby and I love books more than anything. If publishers and authors like the blog, well, I get more books! So technically I'm not working for free. I just get paid in books.

· Why do you think most book-review bloggers go under a pseudonym or use an illustration rather than a real pic of themselves? Is there a freedom in anonymity?

Tara: I've heard some horror stories. Some people use the anonymity for safety purposes. Some authors have been known to go nuts over a book review. There was one author who threatened to commit suicide after I reviewed her book. I've received hate mail on Goodreads over my reviews. People take book reviews way too personally. Thus, the anonymity. BUT some people do indeed use the anonymity to be catty and vicious and say things that otherwise they would not say. Sometimes the anonymity, however, has nothing to do with the book world. Perhaps the reviewer has an ex-boyfriend stalking her online and so she makes a fake name or something. The possible reasons for this choice are endless.

I have no reason to use anonymity and I never say something I don't want associated with my name. I think that keeps me out of trouble.

· Have you ever written a scathing book review and been scared about the author reading it, or even been contacted by such an author?

Yes. I wouldn't use the word scathing, but yes, sometimes even a three-star review gets the emails coming, especially if they queried me via Book Babe. The promise of a review doesn't guarantee the rating they want... I tend to balk about sharing book tour reviews. The book tour companies only want three stars and up and I hate that because if I feel a book deserves a two, if I don't like it, I should be allowed to say so, tour be damned. I've posted my two-bike reviews anyway and just inwardly cringe and wait for the attack. I also tend to balk about reviewing authors who have NOTHING but 5-star reviews. Something is off there and sure enough, those tends to attack and get mad at the threes.

I had an author recently say some snarky things to me over the fact I gave her a book a three.

· Where and when do you write your book reviews, and how often do you do it? 

Tara: I write the review as soon as I close the book, while the thoughts are still fresh in my head. This could be any time of the day, afternoon, night... Sometimes I'm at work and I have to write the review on my phone during break, save it into drafts, and make it pretty on the blog later. I'd say I finish a book every two to four days and thus write the review. It varies depending on length of book, time I've had to read, and if I read the entire book or not. LOL

· How many books do you generally read in one week? And what do you ‘sacrifice’ elsewhere in your life in order to get your reading/reviewing done?

Tara: I sacrifice television, which isn't too hard because the only shows I like are on Sundays, BBC. I hate American TV.

· What is your reviewing process like? Do you jot down notes in a notepad as you read, dog-ear the corners of pages you want to refer back to, or something else? 

Tara: I prefer reading on Kindle so I can use the highlight feature. But when I have a paper book I will dog-ear the corners...shame on me! OR I use these little bookmarks my mother gave me. They are meant for Avon. When you flip through an Avon catalog and see something you want, you tear a sticky pink tab from the bookmark and place it on the edge of the page. The tabs say things like "Want", "Love"... I just use those to mark passages I want to remember or quotes I want to share.

· How long does it take you to write a book review?

Tara: Depends. If I really have a lot to say, an hour. If I don't know what to say, like if it's a good story but not particularly powerful or unique, 15 to 20 minutes.

· Do you have periods of doing lots of book reviewing and then none at all, and why so?

Tara: Yes. I don't waste a lot of time on books that suck. If I can't finish it or if it's a one-star read, I just quickly jot why I hated it on my Goodreads account, mark it dnf, and move on. Life is too short to waste it on sucky books, especially when there are so many good ones out there. So...I go through periods in which I don't write reviews when it's a bad-book week. Because I won't waste blog space on those.

· Pet hates as a book blogger? (i.e. authors emailing you, begging to have their books reviewed on your site, and the likes!)

Tara: Has to be the complaining emails, about how I gave them a three and they haven't had a three yet...blah blah blah. I also hate poorly edited books. And I hate that some people don't read the review guidelines and email wanting me to read books I'd clearly have no interest in if they took the time to look at the blog. I also hate the ones who email me wanting to be on the blog but never even offer me a book for my time. I sometimes get messages from authors wanting me to interview them, post this and that and that, and yet they have the nerve to inform me their book is on sale... I'm like, "You're demanding an hour of my time...for...what? Nothing!"

I hate blog tour companies for the same reason. I post for them, they offer no book unless I agree to do a rushed only three-star review, and in the end I get nothing for my time.

I love when I read a book, write a glowing review for it, and then get surprised with a thank-you note from the author and even better, the offer of their next title for review. Heck yes! I'm all over that!

· Why do you write book reviews?

Tara: I get paid in books! Usually.... Having been an author myself, I also know how very hard it is to get people interested in your books. I like to help out. When I was an author, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on worthless blog tours that did nothing for my sales. Why use them when you can just find a nice blogger to help you out, someone like me. LOL (Just don't ask for two hours of my time, two days, and a custom interview. Be reasonable.)

Catch of the Day
I also meet some of the coolest people this way. Just by conversing with them in emails.

Oh, and by the way – Carla here again! – here’s a blurb of my latest novel, Catch of the Day (Destiny Romance). Thanks for your time…

After a regrettable incident at the office Christmas party, up-and-coming fashion editor, Winnie Cherry, is banished to coastal South Australia to set up a beach lifestyle magazine – 300km from nowhere.

Her friends joke that she’ll marry a rich cray fisherman and stay there for good, but Winnie has other ideas. Determined to get back to Sydney within two months, she gets to work and starts counting down the days. Until she meets handsome freelance photographer Alex Bass, and sparks begin to fly.

As Winnie is increasingly drawn into the close-knit local community, she starts to question whether city life is really what she wants. That is, until Alex drops a bombshell that casts dark storm clouds over all her coastal dreams…

Buy it here: or here on Amazon.

Tara here: Carla, thanks so much for this. This was fun. I also hope my answers help you as you write your novella. I expect you to come back and promote/share the book with us when it's done.

Readers!!!!! Help an author with her research! Get something of yourself in her next story! If one of the above questions is something you'd like to answer, do so by leaving a comment below. Carla would appreciate it.


  1. Thanks kindly for having me, Tara!

  2. Brilliant review and such great answers guys:) I'm taking notes!

  3. Hi, Tara. As an author who has recently been interviewed on your blog, I am appreciative. But I have to confess I'm also confused. If I send a request for review and you turn down the request but offer a spotlight or an interview instead, I had no idea you would still be interested in reading the book! I thought a no was a no. I spotlight other authors' work on my blogs simply to help out other writers, get people to visit, and maybe in the process take a glance at the covers of my own books. If I got a copy of each book I spotlighted, I wouldn't have time to get to my own TBR pile and I don't waste much time watching TV either. I very much appreciate the boost and your time, and this insight into why book bloggers blog.

    1. Aleathea, my guidelines state that if I'm offered a book and I can't possibly take it on, I will indeed offer an interview or guest post...but the key words there is "I was offered".. I am referring to the authors who send me messages like, "My book just released and I'd love to be on your blog. How about you interview me and ask me questions about this, this, and that. Oh, it's on sale on Amazon if you want to read it."

      There is a big difference in how these authors present themselves to me. My first thought when an author queries me like that is, "Holy crap. That's two hours of work. And what do I get out of it?"

      I'm certainly not making new friends with a person like that. LOL But when authors query me and offer me a title, there's a different tone. I'm not sure this is making any sense. But you are fine, Alethea and you are right, I wouldn't have time to read all these books.

    2. I guess....there's a big difference between a SALES PITCH and a review request. LOL. The tone is totally different. One comes across, self-absorbed and arrogant and the other comes across as friendly and respectful of my time and trouble.

  4. Oh, good. What a relief! Thanks for the explanations, Tara.