Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Reviews Reviewed

On Amazon
My guest is debut author and friend Una Tiers. Una is the pen name for a Chicago lawyer, so she knows what she's talking about.
My first mystery, Judge vs Nuts, will be released soon.  A year ago, when the editing process started, I dreamed of reviews raving about the magnificence of my book, written by scholars who begged for more. My potential reviewers included authors who write non-fiction books about the law or who had ties to Chicago.  Of course the occasional celebrity author would stop me on the street and ask about doing a review too.   
At the Printers Row Lit Fest last June, I attended a panel discussion with three women authors who talked about the  low numbers of women reviewers.  That made me realize my list of hopefuls were all men.  Later I approached one of the authors to thank her and asked if she was interested in taking a look at my book.  I’ll come back to this.
At the early stage “book review” pretty much sounded like “book report” to me.  As I started to read reviews I realized they were not a means to establish reading the book but an analysis or opinion after reading the book.  Reviews can cover, plot, characters, pace, grammar and more.       
Since then, my understanding continues to grow along with my confusion.  Reviews come from many sources:  readers, friends, and professional reviewers.   Now I know that “book cover blurb” means a short piece, maybe three or four sentences that would be on the back cover or inside the book.  These are my favorite.  The Amazon reviews have no set pattern.  Many reviews are so long they give away too much of the story or are just too long to read.  Some reviews are exchanges with one author helping another.  These come under heavy criticism although writers are prolific readers and well versed to write reviews.  When any denied bias is balanced with pointers on making the writing stronger, I have no complaint.  
As an attorney, I think the terms of the review should be specific and, yes, in writing.  Items to consider are:  receipt of manuscript; word count; time frame; how you will use the review and what you want.  Will the reviewer post the review on their blog or website?   Invite the reviewer to tell you if they can’t meet the time frame.  If your release is pushed back, let them know. 
The bad review is controversial.  There are reviewers who think honesty means to be simply mean and write like a bear with a thorn in their paw.  When asked about constructive comments, they are a defensive group.   There is a group that says a bad review should have explanations.  Others decline to write a bad review, meaning they write nothing.  Then we have my pet peeve group, the hiders.  Those folks make an agreement to review your book and then avoid you when you follow up.  Did they hate the book?  Want it for free?  Lose it?  Change their tiny minds about doing the review?  You won’t be able to get the answer, because the hiders, well, hide.      
There are also people in the ambiguous category.  You ask them if they would like to review your book and they respond they don’t read eBooks, don’t have an eReader, can’t read on the computer and can’t print the book out.  Is this another way to say no?  Should you print out a copy?
Despite my efforts to date I have one review.  It is short and sweet and from an author whose writing I admire.  Barbara D’Amato went to great lengths to write the review for me.  This was not only a testament of her understanding of the business but shows what a nice person will do to help a stranger with their debut book.   It means more to me now after the other reviews fell through for one reason or another.  Thank you Barbara D’Amato.  
The review:
Judge vs Nuts is a hilariously funny take on judges, but also a scathing indictment of judicial politics.  Lawyer Fiona Gavelle narrates with a wonderful, self-deprecating wit, as she goes about unraveling the murder of a Cook County judge. 
Barbara D'Amato
Author of Other Eyes
*  *  * 
Dying to visit Chicago?  Join Fiona Gavelle, attorney at law, as she unravels the mystery of the death of Judge Laslo King.  It’s a cozy, a mystery, legally oriented, traditional mystery and over all a humorcide. Judge vs Nuts.
Stop by and say hello:  and we will send you an excerpt.   Una's website is       


Una Tiers said...

Ellis, I want to thank you for being such a great friend and letting me return to guest blog.

Ellis Vidler said...

Always glad to have you, Una. Reviews are hard to come by, for sure. I can't wait for your book to come out! I'll review Judge vs Nuts, I promise. :-)

Mike Arsuaga said...

Story sounds intriguing. Good luck.

Kathleen Delaney said...

Interesting take on reviews. they are, indeed, hard to get, or perhaps that's just that meaningful reviews are hard to get. However, the one you got was a duzy. Should make up for all those you didn't get, and probably wouldn't have wanted. Reading just what Barbara wrote is much more likely to get me to buy than a dozen poorly written ones from people I've never heard of.

Polly Iyer said...

With all that goes on in Chicago politics, you must have had an excess of material for your book. Your take on reviews is right on. I've had good ones and bad ones, and the bad ones make me wish I had written the book differently. I look at them as a critique that will help me get it right the next time.

Good luck with your book, Una. I look forward to reading it.

Norma Huss said...

I agree with your take on reviews. What we writers really want is a few words, supposing the reader actually likes the book, enticing others to really want to read your book! Fact is, this blog enticed me.

I've joined the Goodreads group, so I do actually give short reviews of books I've read. And, I like to see the good side of things. I start reading a book with the expectation that it will be good.

Anonymous said...

As a beginner, I like this analysis. Thank you.

Una Tiers said...

Thanks Ellis.
Thanks Mike.
Kathleen, you learn a lot when you collect for charity and when you ask for a book review. Barbara D'Amato was very kind to help me.
Hi Polly, A few weeks back I was at a library panel discussion and all four panelists wrote about corruption in Chicago. Still I think we have the same amount as anywhere else, with better press coverage.

Una Tiers said...

Hi Norma: Do you ask for something short? Maybe the "review" means something more time consuming for readers.
I love your positive outlook, and will likely steal it as I look at the next new author.
Everyone talks about goodreads. Is it about paying forward?
Thanks Olga, if I can help, don't hesitate to write.
Una Tiers

Marni said...

Una, I've just read an article that showed that Goodreads reviews drive more readers to a book than announcing it on your FB page. On my weekly book review blog ( I'm trying to steer readers to writers they might not find, so I start reading a new book looking for the positives. It has to be a real clunker for me not to review it showing the positives, in which case I probably won't do the review. What's a clunker for me might be someone else's great read, so I'll let them find that one on their own~

Anonymous said...

I never look too closely at reviews but now I will to see who writes them. Before I thought they were all from newspapers. Thank you.

Linda Lovely said...

Una, reviews are tough. The hiders are perhaps the most frustrating because you don't know if they have decided (a) they don't want to read the book, (b) they're swamped and behind schedule or (c) they hate the book and don't want to admit it. It's time for me to ask for blurbs for a book that's coming out in May and I really hate to do it. I feel like I'm puting people on the spot. But the review you received is terrific. Can't wait to read it.

Unknown said...

Love that, "the hiders". I've had a few reviewers hiding from me too, Una. But you landed a great one in the end. Been eying your book for a while. Haven't got around to it yet, but will. And that's a promise (:

Una Tiers said...

Hi Marni: You've shamed me into creating another account with Goodreads. As soon as I finish a certain romantic thriller I will post a review. I love your blog and see we are both Grafton fans. Although I do think Henry Pitts was not given equal time in V.

Anon: I used to look at the number of reviews, afraid they would spoil the read by giving too much story information. Now I hold them up to the light to look for "issues."
Una Tiers

Una Tiers said...

Thank you Linda, we should develop a reviewers checklist and require that they swear not to hide and have it notarized.
Unfortunately asking is the only way I know about since guns aren't allowed here. What do you write?

JP thanks it isn't available on Amazon, have to remind publisher.
Una Tiers

Sergei said...

Hello, first time here. Reading and learning. I had no experience with reviews yet. What I really like, those book cover blurbs, my favourites, yes.
Sergei Pimenov

Una Tiers said...

Hi Sergio: Thanks for stopping by. As soon as you get that mystery finished, I will help you with reviews.
Una Tiers

Anonymous said...


Thank you for giving me more insight into how the book review world works. Look forward to reading the book.

God bless,
Lois Fiorelli

Una Tiers said...

Hi Lois, thanks for stopping by. How is the writing coming along?

Una Tiers said...

Many thanks to Ellis Vidler for allowing me to return to the blog. It is nice to see friends and make new ones.
Una Tiers