Reviewer IndieView with Iona Caldwell of The Antered Crown
We all have innate attachments to certain tropes, themes, characters, details, etc. Lovecraft did it too as did Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley. The industry is bustling and needing all the time we can give. Just as reviewers are inundated, so too, are authors. I read it completely through. Two max. We can’t by any means devote time to every request we get. It’s most likely because the movie is made without the author’s input or adapted with edits so different it strips the story. It bugs me when reviewers are so quick to pick the story apart based on technicality. So many authors don’t do this and send us review requests anyway. How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system? Agents are bombarded by constant queries, they must be selective but bloggers have a bit more leeway, especially if we aren’t professionally reviewing. My advice to authors on getting a ‘bad’ review (hasten to add that might mean a perfectly honest, well written, fair review – just bad from the author’s point of view) is to take what you can from it and move on. It seems like dialogue replaces details like smell, hear, scent, taste and touch. What it does is hurt those who are truly trying to make a name for themselves, buried beneath those who shove titles out like bullets. This often depends on how interesting the story is. You can often tell the difference when looking at cover care, description, character plot and if the author has made the effort to market themselves and not their book. As I’ve said, the supposed secret to getting an author’s work seen lies in reviews but here is where that becomes fatal – book bloggers can’t keep up with or struggle to meet demand. It’s the nature of the marketing beast. Ignore the ever-changing flow and in the end, those who stand will have conquered the waves. While I understand there are only so many ways a story can be told, I believe today’s authors are falling into the “write to sell” trap. The industry wouldn’t be flourishing if that was the case. Some of us are authors ourselves, have families, jobs, emergencies, etc. Ask yourself how you can change this and make your story truly stand out. I have always been an avid reader with an incredibly fast reading speed. I’m usually able to overlook some grammatical or technical areas in favor of a strong story. It may sound strange but the way my memory works, I can usually store what I need in my mind. This industry is not how it was when King, Rowling, or Meyer published. As a storyteller focusing on the journey and depth of world and character, I look for these things in the books I read. It is very hurtful as we do this because we love it. As a reader, I plead with the authors to stop doing this. They paint a vibrant picture and allows our minds to build the worlds around us. No, I don’t believe that. Taking notes during the process confuses me and causes me to lose what I’ve read. Only you understand the characters, the world, the story the most. You simply can’t do it. What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed? If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that? I’m usually able to get through any book I latch onto in less than a week. Indie or self-published titles should be treated no less than a traditionally published title. I think the attitude is a bit fluctuated. The movie was beautiful but it felt hollow with little of the King feel to it. We are only looking at the tip of the iceberg. Last, be understanding. I would like to get emails thanking me for it at times but it’s not really expected. In today’s author market, I find it sad at how many “cookie cutter” or “flat” characters I encounter. No, I don’t believe that. For goodness sakes, I will ask authors not to make everything action-action-action. They all seem to be perfect or they’re not seen as real. I am not indie published but I have been told some stories. The reason is because there are many indie and self-published books that are being rushed out without any sort of beta reading or anything. The author gets irate and emails the blogger, complaining to us as to why we write what we did. However, I would say that it is struggling because many don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t agree with this behavior. What are you looking for? Now, if it becomes a case of obvious neglect, I will bring it up in my review. Not every character has to be flawless, not every woman has to need a bad boy, alpha male to save. I do agree the author needs to learn from the review and move on. What I do respect and am more than willing to do is to further speak with the author as to why I wrote what I did. Reading as a pastime is not dying. Rarely will I read anything outside of these genres because I find it is very hard to find people to read and review them. Despite that, I will always try to complete a book through to the end. About Publishing
What do you think of the oft-quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”? If we turn you down, it’s not personal, we just won’t be able to do it for one reason or another. How do you review a book? The industry wouldn’t be flourishing if that was the case. There are only so many of us and many of us blog for a hobby. I simply believe the way of reading is changing. Brands who did not survive were consumed by those who did. There is a reason Stephen King builds his worlds like he does. This being the case, I give the book a chance to its completion in most cases. Agents typically request only the first five pages of a novel; what do you think about that? I for one love to promote indie authors and applaud them for their bravery. Some of us have begun doing “TBR” Cleaning. Often times, you hear this as well, “The book was better.” Why do we think that is? Second, the story is yours. It is saturated, competitive and can be hurtful. It is a very personal experience for me. Reading as a pastime is not dying. Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can ‘filter’ good from bad, aside from reviews? I am an author of the occult, horror, suspense, and supernatural thriller. If a book hasn’t grabbed you by the first five pages, do you put it down? Stories have been told with words for centuries. By no means should you allow what we say to change the story you want to tell unless it is to help you better yourself. We’re seeing lots of statistics that say reading as a pastime is dying – do you think that’s the case? About Writing
What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making? For previously mentioned reasons, I will not review romance. I love books and find I can’t keep enough on my kindle, bookshelf or audio readers to keep this overwhelming appetite to read quenched. As an author myself, I realize there are readers who might think the beginning of my novella is slow, but here is why that’s important, it is because of how I choose to write as an author. Iona Caldwell – 29 April 2019
How did you get started? It requires work and those who aren’t willing to do it will ultimately fall by the wayside. I’m so sick of the same plot over and over. As it grows, I believe the industry will weed out those who don’t need to be in it as any industry would. Many authors in the industry don’t even read their reviews because they write what they want to tell and move onto the next project. The biggest and most fatal things I’m seeing in the industry is what I’ve called “cookie cutter” plots and “perfect” characters. My review policy is selective and it is because of the reasons I listed. There is nothing wrong with build but build with strategy. How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book? Do not write to appease us. H.P. We’re told that the first page, paragraph, chapter, is absolutely key in making or breaking a book. Especially with so many ways to meet beta readers who are willing to help with plot holes, grammar, spelling, etc. In the end, it’s their story. It strangles character development and story growth. Words are ever-lasting, something film simply isn’t. I didn’t really do anything too convoluted. I simply believe the way of reading is changing. Whenever I would hurt, a good book always healed the pain. I’m not usually one to abide by that rule but my publisher is an advocate for it. Why do you think people love reading? I think judging the entire plot on the basis of the first five pages is simply ludicrous as far as bloggers are concerned. Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to indie or self-published titles? Now, if the book’s characters have done nothing but chatter about the boy they like for five chapters and haven’t enacted the exciting incident, I might struggle to read through. I stopped reading romance and fantasy of any kind because of these two things alone. About Reading
We talk a lot about writing here on the blog, and possibly not enough about reading, which is after all why we’re all here. They write stories everyone is reading and writing with hopes of “best-seller” status and movie deals. This is very disheartening as it is a horrendous flaw that makes a character beautiful or more evil. The most recent case of this is Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Is there anything you will not review? I’ve seen this a few times, including personal experience. They can’t email everyone unless they’re on their street team. Editors are expensive, I understand that but there is no excuse with so many other ways to make things right. We all have our tastes. I started doing it as more of a hobby when I began writing my first novella. When reading, I want to step out of the real world into the world of the novel. All of the genres I will, might or will not review can be found within my policy. I think it also has to do with personal preference. I want to help them build themselves to be better which is why my reviews are usually based on things like story, plot and character. Under no circumstances to ‘argue’ with the reviewer – would you agree with that? Imperfections are going to happen as we are all human. With self and Indie publishing taking over the market, book bloggers are in demand now more than ever. Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review? Third, when querying us, read our review policies. Try as we might, our reviews will include some personal bias. This being said, many treat this profession as nothing more than a hobby, which is not what publishing is meant to be. I wanted to find a way to show authors their work is appreciated and help to bring them exposure, especially when so many of us book bloggers are becoming inundated with so many requests. I usually get them on the posts themselves or via twitter comments. Many of them are turned down because I simply can’t reach them all though I do read every query and respond in as timely a manner as I can. I personally love reading because it has always been a dear friend. Though it does happen, I don’t usually DNF a book. It certainly needs to pick up after that, then it becomes a matter of throat-clearing and info dumps. My system is the basic five star including a cover rating as the cover is usually what attracts me to a book in the first place. I think it has some truth to it. I think business ethics is a great way to decipher who really loves their craft and who is doing it as another cash cow. I have heard stories where when an indie is asked if they are indie, the reader responds with “So, just anyone can publish now, huh?” This is a bad, bad thing for the industry. It’s the same with any industry. Me personally, I make the author query me before I’ll even ask for the file. With a busy society with so many of us sitting on the struggle-bus just to survive, I see more of us (myself included at times) relying on audio versions of books. However, if the story seems to drag or the inciting incident takes a while to get to, I usually take longer. There is only so much a reader can take before the same story keeps getting repeated over and over. This is something I don’t see enough of. I don’t post things like “Didn’t like it” or “it was good.” These don’t help the author understand and are more hurtful than reviewers realize. I don’t really take notes at all as I’m able to sift through information while I’m blogging. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) If I don’t feel immersed in the world, I usually don’t finish the novel. Books do what movies can’t. Not saying that those who publish this way are bad authors, not at all, but there are some who do not see this as a business and it reflects on the industry as a whole. It is very disheartening and hurts you as a professional in the long run. First, remember reviewers are human. Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along? Absolutely none. I have heard many give sour grapes when someone says “Don’t write to make money.” This statement is true. Otherwise, I appreciate the story if it is strong enough. We aren’t under a contract binding us to review your work. I think this will ultimately harm the industry and the author’s reputation. End of Interview:
To read Iona’s reviews, visit her site, The Antlered Crown.