Reviewer IndieView with Jo Linsdell of Jo Linsdell Book and Blogging

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Regardless of genre I think what I really want is a book that I can get lost in. I want a story and characters that make me forget about time and keep me turning the pages. I also like it when a book makes me think. Books that have elements to them that inspire me to consider how I would act, feel, etc… if it happened to me. A great book helps me realise something about myself as I read it.

Jo Linsdell – 1 July 2021

About Reviewing

How did you get started?

I started out blogging in 2006. I was working as a freelancer writer and decided to write my first book. Yep, I’m an author too. My first book was Italian for Tourists which is an English-Italian phrasebook. I’ve since published several others in various genres and have also worked as an illustrator for children’s books by other authors.

I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I was doing at the beginning as blogs and social media were all still quite new at the time. It just kind of developed over time. I didn’t want to just blog about my own writing. I wanted to connect with other readers and spread the love of books as much as possible, whether they be my own or by other authors. I also wanted to share my journey and the things I learnt along the way, both from the publishing side, marketing side, and as a reader. Both the publishing industry and the whole world that is blogging and social media are constantly in evolution so there’s always something new to learn.

How do you review a book? Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along?

It depends on the book. I usually make note of interesting quotes to include in my review as I read. Sometimes I’ll make notes about characters or topics of particular interest that come up too. In most cases I’ll just read and film a review when I finish. I try not to plan what I’m going to say in my review too much as I mainly do video reviews and prefer it to have a more natural conversational type of feel to it as opposed to a scripted piece.

What are you looking for?

Regardless of genre I think what I really want is a book that I can get lost in. I want a story and characters that make me forget about time and keep me turning the pages. I also like it when a book makes me think. Books that have elements to them that inspire me to consider how I would act, feel, etc… if it happened to me. A great book helps me realise something about myself as I read it.

If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?

It depends on how bad the grammar is. If I’m reading an ARC I’ll look past it. For final copies, if it’s just a few small things I’ll let it slide. If it distracts too much from the story though I may end up adding it to my DNF pile.

How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?

My life tends to be hectic pretty much all year round so I don’t get as much time as I’d like to read. I used to stress about not reading enough but then I realised I’m the only person telling me I’m not reading enough. Now I just take it as it comes. Sometimes I get a slower week where I can fit in more blocks of time for reading. If a book is good, and I have the time, I can finish it in the one day. Normally it takes me longer though as that very rarely happens. For an 80K book I’m probably more likely to take 4-7 days as only get shorter reading sessions.

How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?

I pretty much base it on the Goodreads system. I don’t tend to give out 1 star reviews as I prefer to DNF and just leave it at that. For me to give that rating the book would have to be truly terrible.

I also rarely give out 2 stars. For me it means the book was lacking. Usually the negatives outweigh the positives for this rating.

A 3 star is a solid rating. It means the book was quite good. Not amazing, and probably lacking in some parts, but overall it was OK.

A 4 star is very good. It means I really liked the book. It was just maybe missing something that meant it didn’t have the wow factor.

A 5 star rating is for the books that had me captured from beginning to end. These are the rare gems that stand out from all the rest. They have that wow factor. For me it means I couldn’t really find anything negative to say about the book at all. All positive.

What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?

Not everyone will love your book and give it 5 stars… and that’s OK. No book is for everyone. A well balanced 3 or 4 star rating can actually be more influential in closing sales anyway so don’t get distracted by the number. Look more at the comments.
Be patient. We all have busy lives. You also never know what someone is going through in their own life. You have no say about when a book blogger will review your book. Book reviews are done by the reviewer’s schedule not yours.
You have no say in what gets said in a review. Once you publish your book it’s out there for the public to decide.
Always read the review policy and submission instructions. If a book blogger states they only read thrillers, don’t pitch them fantasy. It’s just wasting their time and yours.
If you request a review, always thank the reviewer for their time… regardless of the rating they gave it. If they published the review on their blog, drop by and leave a comment. You’d be surprised at how many authors don’t do this, and probably equally surprised at how much it gets noticed by book bloggers. They are much more likely to promote the post more and consider hosting you again if you do. It also gives you the opportunity to connect with their readers and offer more insight into the book to the readers of the blog that have shown an interest in the book. Just don’t be spammy about it.

Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?

Sometimes. It doesn’t happen very often but it’s always nice when it does. I do get quite a lot of readers contact me via social media either publicly or in my DMs to thank me for my reviews though and ask me things about the books.

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. Under no circumstances to ‘argue’ with the reviewer – would you agree with that?

Yes! A thousand times yes! Never argue with a reviewer about their review. Their review is THEIR opinion and you have no say in that what so ever. Thank them anyway for having taken the time to read your book and share their review, even if it wasn’t for them, and then move on.

Instead of seeing it as a bad thing (I know this can be hard), try to learn what you can from it. Be objective. They may have stated why it wasn’t for them in the review, or given examples of where it was lacking. An author can use those comments to try and improve future projects they work on.

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. Why do you think people love reading? We’re seeing lots of statistics that say reading as a pastime is dying – do you think that’s the case?

I think people love reading because it’s escapism and self discovery rolled into one. Books allow us to travel to other places, experience a wide range of emotions, be different people, and discover things about ourselves along the way. Books educate, inspire, and make us think.

I don’t think reading is dying as a pastime at all. In fact, with COVID happening I think a lot of people rediscovered a love of books. I actually did some research into reading habits during quarantine for a blog post on my website and a lot of people said they were reading more now than before.

About Writing

What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?

In terms of the actual book, a lot of authors don’t realise just how important a good cover design is. We shouldn’t but, let’s be honest, most of us do judge a book by its cover. It’s the first impression of the book so you want it to be a good one or people will just keep on scrolling and never even read the synopsis. By good, I don’t just mean attractive and eye catching. It needs to fit the genre too.

In general, not thanking book reviewers, not commenting on posts that feature them, and not sharing the posts. All of these things take just a minute to do but they go a long way to building a good reputation.

Book bloggers and reviewers talk to each other and not just about the books they read. We also share about good and bad experiences with authors. Our readers take note when authors join in the discussion in the comments sections of our posts too. If you’re not using the comments section you’re ignoring the most important part of the blog post. The post itself is an introduction. The comments section is where you show who you are and turn blog readers into YOUR readers.

We’re told that the first page, paragraph, chapter, is absolutely key in making or breaking a book. Agents typically request only the first five pages of a novel; what do you think about that? If a book hasn’t grabbed you by the first five pages, do you put it down?

Personally no. I’ve been known to read books that didn’t start out too great but later became amazing reads in the second half of the book. I very rarely DNF though. Not all reviewers are willing to keep going to see if it gets better though. We have so many books we want to read, we generally don’t want to waste time on the ones that aren’t working out.

A strong start is obviously better. If you can pull me in the first few pages and hold my interest throughout the book, my rating will be a good one. Those are the sorts of books that get 5 stars.

Is there anything you will not review?

I’m open to pretty much anything and everything. I’ve discovered some great books that I wouldn’t have had I not “given them a try”. That said, I know what I like and tend to go for those sorts of books most of the time.

About Publishing

What do you think of the oft-quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?

Whilst there are a lot of books out there now that are definitely slush-pile worthy, there are just as many great books that wouldn’t have seen the light of day before the internet came along.

Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to indie or self-published titles?

Yes. What matters is a quality book not how it was published. A lot of big name authors have chosen to move to self-publishing. If a book is good, looks professional, and is good quality (edited and formatted correctly), it doesn’t matter at all. When done right you can’t tell unless you look up who the publisher was.

Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can ‘filter’ good from bad, aside from reviews?

Reviews are definitely the most powerful tool for “filtering” books. They can really make or break a book. Awards also get noticed.

I think the most important thing is to put out a quality book. The book itself should filter the competition and show its value.

End of Interview:

To check out Jo Linsdell’s reviews, visit Jo Linsdell Books and Blogging.

The post Reviewer IndieView with Jo Linsdell of Jo Linsdell Book and Blogging first appeared on The IndieView.

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