Tuesday, 3 March 2015

BLOG: It's Not Easy Being a Reviewer - Part One!!

This blog turned into such a long thing (sorry but I ramble) that I have now divided it into two parts. This is obviously part one.

So here we go. The first official blog from Confessions of a Reviewer.

Um…….eh……hang on…….I’ll think of something soon. Nope, not that. Pffft definitely not that if I don’t want to be banned from the interwebie thing. Ahhhhh, I know. Let’s talk about how easy it is to be a reviewer. 
Here goes:

It isn’t.

The end.

I thought it was going to be. I’ve been reading for years and started doing the old minimum twenty word Amazon review from the Kindle. This was mainly because when trying to write an in-depth review using one finger on a Kindle it can be a bit time consuming and ultimately I just gave up. Then I started thinking, you know what (?) some of these guys really deserve some credit for the stuff I’m reading. When I think back to the hundreds of books I have read since I was a kid, there are so many I wish I had written a review for at the time.

At first I thought I would just write a paragraph or two for the ones I really liked. This progressed into a paragraph or two for the ones I really hated. It then moved onto the ones in between and soon enough I was reviewing everything.

One day I did a slightly longer one and one of my Facebook friends commented on it saying it was a really good review. My initial thought was they needed to up their medication or get out more – not saying who it was by the way but if they can guess they would take that comment in jest. Another couple of books down the line and I did another longer one. More than one person commented on this one and even the author messaged me to thank me for it. My initial thought was, “what the hell is wrong with these people? Have they nothing better to do than comment on this drivel? Is Game of Thrones not on tonight?”

I kept going and to be honest started to quite enjoy the praise. I’m not normally one for blowing my own trumpet. I do boast about things and take great pride in winding people up with say, photographs of signed books I get (I love getting signed stuff so if you are an author reading this and have anything lying around you would like to sign and send me please feel free and get in touch. Sorry, I digress) but believing in myself and the drivel I write about books is not something that sits comfortably with me. I hear so many authors saying they have no self confidence in what they write and sometimes feel very humbled by what people say about their work. Now I know it’s nowhere near the same league, but I feel the same when someone says they like my review. I turn into the proverbial embarrassed old woman, blushing and going “oohhh” behind my hand.

(People seem to put pretty pictures in the middle of blogs to break them up so here goes)

(My wife in the mornings before coffee)

So I kept on reading and kept on reviewing. I probably started reading more to be honest and the Kindle didn’t help matters. I used to be one of the old “I like to hold a book in my hand and will never own a kindle” brigade but once I got one, a whole new world opened up for me. This is where I discovered the independent authors and that is really where my troubles started. I soon discovered the big “corporate” authors really didn’t care about your reviews and the “little” guys really appreciated them. I’ll get on to that point later.

So, where was I……yeah, people started to like my reviews. The most important thing for me was the fact that people started to tell me they were buying books purely from my reviews. This was a turning point for me as well. I was thinking right I really like this book, and the author is a pretty damned nice chap or chapess as well so, it would be nice to help them out and give them an honest review and hopefully someone else would pick their stuff up.

This led me to sit down and seriously think about a review I was about to write. Turns out I was better at it than I thought I would be. They started to get longer and more in-depth. I started picking out things that I picked up from reading between the lines. Turns out I was getting the “feelings” I had about the books right as well after some comments from authors themselves.

(Enjoy a musical interlude)

Anyway, without trying to bore you to death, this led me to taking the reviewing verrry seriously. Listen, at the end of the day I’m a geek. After my beautiful wife and son and dog and motorbikes and metal music, books are my biggest passion. In fact put the motorbikes and dog after the books (just don’t tell the dog) and put the metal alongside them. Nothing better than listening to music and reading.

I wanted to make the reviews the best I could. At the end of the day, the guys that write the stuff for our enjoyment put their hearts and souls into making it perfect for us so why not give something back and be honest and informative if I could. Right? Even for the ones who really shouldn’t bother writing at all and should take up bricklaying. Right?

When I started putting my all into them I soon discovered that I had maybe found my niche in the writing world. Many people who read claim to have a book of their own inside of them. I do too. I don’t think it would be very good but I think I could do it. I am the one you see saying” I would love to write a book but I just don’t have the time”. Many laugh at that but it’s true. I enjoying the reading process and the reviewing process so much more than sitting down and writing something. At least I think I do because I have obviously never done it. When I sit down and write something (even now while I’m writing this) I’m thinking about the next book in my to be read pile just crying out for someone to read the beautiful words and tell people about them. That person needs to be me!! It would probably take me forever to write even a short story. Imagine how many books I could read in that time!

Go get a coffee before I move on……..I’ll have one as well…….strong please…….and some chocolate biscuits……….and cake. Enjoy my favourite audio book:

Things all started to move really quickly at this point. I was off on long term sick leave from work and had plenty of time to put into trying to make something of this reviewing gig. I decided to really put my back into it (in joke because I’m currently waiting on an operation to have a disc removed from my lower back) and see where it could take me. Like I said before, I think I found my niche so let’s see where this journey could take me.

Things went well with GNOH and my reviews were being taking seriously, it seemed, by all around me. I decided as well as doing reviews for Ginger Nuts, I would develop my own blog and see what happened with that. Obviously it worked in essence because you’re reading it now but this is where allllll my troubles started and this is where I finally get to the bit about it not being easy to be a reviewer.

I have a friend called Meghan Shena Hyden. She has a blog at The Gal in the Blue Mask. She’s rather bloody good at what she does so go check out what she writes about. She very kindly agreed to help me design and set my blog up. To cut a long story short, after many, many, many hours of work I finally started to get somewhere. It was so frustrating it was unbelievable. It didn’t help matters that I am in the UK and Meghan is in the US, so any time I wanted to ask Meghan a question I had to wait until she dragged herself out of bed to ask. I mean I would have thought a true friend would have pulled a night shift to help me out but alas that didn’t happen. (Meghan knows I’m joking by the way) (Don’t you?) Rumour has it, by the time we were finished Meghan had a fully-fledged voodoo doll of me with two hundred acupuncture needles sticking purely in the head.

One day before the big launch, my wife blew my laptop up. She would claim she didn’t touch it but the dog told me she did. Total catastrophe. All these ideas, reviews ready to publish and a public anxiously waiting on this super blog and nothing I could do about it. Add into the mix that I was getting review requests through the blog when it hadn’t even been launched yet. Figure that one out!? So I had to sit and do nothing for a week. Literally nothing. When I read a book I had to write the review by hand, in a notebook. I started getting reviews backing up in the notebook with no way of typing them up or managing the blog. I had a big proof read to do and couldn’t get a programme for the Kindle to let me amend things. Stress levels went through the roof.

Finally got the laptop back and thought I would catch up pretty quickly. Nope. Blog annoyed me and I tweaked and tweaked and tweaked some more until I had it just the way I wanted. (Big than you’s to my helpers on this Jon Recluse / Scot Leedom / Kit Power / Charlene Cocrane / Meghan ShenaHyden.)

I launched it and sat back to see what happened.

Not much.

Did people see my posts that it was live?

Still nothing. What’s happening?

It’s been 3.5 minutes and no one has looked at it?


Part two will hopefully be coming next week where I will probably rant a bit (a lot) about the real difficulties reviewers face like, the woes of giving a negative review, the pressure from (some) authors and publishers about timescales, the “why will you not promote my book syndrome” and many more.

Please come back to read more if I haven’t made you poke your own eyes out already.




  1. Enjoyed your story! I found your blog after William Malmborg shared something on FB. I identify with your love of reading and reviewing, though I'm afraid I'm not great at reviewing; I tend to be too positive, I think. I'll be checking out your reviews!

    1. Thanks Scott. Don't be scared of reviewing. Just go with the flow but most of all be honest!