Reviewer IndiView with Nellie Steele of Nellie’s Book Nook

There are LOTS of good stories that publishers reject (and I vehemently disagree with their rejection). They deserve a voice, and their story deserves to be heard. Honestly, I’ve read and reviewed books from indies and from trad published authors and I’m surprised at what gets accepted versus what gets rejected.

Nellie Steele – 13 October 2021

About Reviewing

How did you get started?

I was looking for ways to connect with my readers and other writers on a more regular basis and I’d read a lot about blogging.  A blogging help group popped up on my Facebook and I joined and dove in!  I wanted to be able to provide a service to help promote fellow authors and their work and to share my thoughts with readers on all the wonderful books I’ve read!

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

I write a few notes as I go along (specific things or examples that I want to remember when compiling the review).  Once I finish the entire book, I’ll write my raw notes out and then put together my review.

What are you looking for? 

I’m a pretty eclectic reader so this can change genre to genre, but, in general, I look for characters I’m interested in and are believable in the situation they are placed in, an interesting story (not necessarily action-packed or exciting, but something that makes me want to keep reading), and good readability in how the prose is compiled.

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

I really don’t mention it in my reviews.  Unless it’s so bad that I couldn’t understand the book or get through it, it’s neither here nor there to me.  Everyone has typos that slip through to a printing!  If the book is riddled with problems that make it hard to read, it may get a mention, but if they are minor (like a mistyped word or missing punctuation), it won’t get a mention from me!

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

In general, about 4-5 hours depending on the writing style and genre.  Some writing (and genres) takes a bit more to get through than others.  It also depends on how much I am enjoying the book!  If I love it, I fly through it.

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

I reserve my 5 star ratings for books I truly loved.  Basically, if I’m looking forward to reading the book and can’t wait to get back to it the next evening, it’s going to be a five-star book.

4 stars means I liked your book but one or two things stuck out to me that were minor drawbacks.  Nothing major and overall I found it an enjoyable read.

3 stars is okay for me.  I enjoyed it and found it an entertaining read.  A few moderate things stuck out to me that I found bothersome (such as clunky dialogue or characters that lacked development).

2 stars is really the lowest I go on most books.  I really didn’t care for the book for a variety of reasons.  I found it difficult to want to read it.

1 star is a rating I almost never give.  No matter my opinion, every story is important to the author and deserves to be told.  Unless you’ve done something extremely terrible (like glorified violence), I avoid this rating.

I don’t spend a lot of time critiquing grammar and writing style when I rate.  Each author has their own voice!  And all ratings are my own opinion.  I always encourage readers to try to book on their own (I post excerpts if provided) because they may love a character I couldn’t connect with or find a writing style fits well with them that I didn’t care for.

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

Getting reviews can be really difficult.  Reach out to bloggers, let them know some basic information about your book.  Don’t be too upset if they turn you down, they may have a long TBR already or simply not read your genre.  It’s better to get reviews from readers within your genre than someone who doesn’t read or like it!  Be respectful of their time (some bloggers have a long list of posts they are committed to).

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

I do receive emails and I get a likes on my Goodreads reviews, so I know readers watch recommendations and read the reviews others are posting.

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, though I will admit it’s not easy, especially when you feel the reviewer has falsely represented your book (claimed there is a typo where there is not, etc.) or were obviously not your target reader.  But it’s their opinion and your book just isn’t for them.  In some ways, “bad” reviews can help.  It will steer like-minded people away from your book and, in the long run, net you less negative reviews.  It can be really, really hard to let go of though!  Vent to your friends and family, but don’t vent to your readers!

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 it’s an escape for a lot of people and it’s certainly the reason I read.  I love immersing myself in another world.  I’m a member of a number of reader groups, so I see a lot of interest in reading.  I’m hoping it’s not dying off but just changing!  Audiobooks have made reading much more accessible to people who don’t have the time to sit down with a book.

About Writing

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

The most common thing I see across books (regardless of publisher and author) are simple typos making it through to print.  It happens in most books.  I’d be hard pressed to recall a book that did not have at least one or two.

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? 

I think that’s a really narrow-minded view.  I usually finish a book, even if it’s not grabbed me one-third or halfway through!  Especially for a review, I think the author deserves that from me.  I may skim through more quickly if I’m really not into it but, I don’t put it down.  Lots of stories (particularly first-in-series books) start out slowly.  We’re being introduced to the characters, their circumstances, etc.  It’s sometimes not “grabby” but it’s important.

Is there anything you will not review?

I do not review erotica or steamy romance.  I’ll read almost every genre, but my favorite is mystery (broadly defined!).

About Publishing

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

Yay!  I, for one, am excited about this.  There are LOTS of good stories that publishers reject (and I vehemently disagree with their rejection).  They deserve a voice, and their story deserves to be heard.  Honestly, I’ve read and reviewed books from indies and from trad published authors and I’m surprised at what gets accepted versus what gets rejected.  I know some authors actively choose indie publishing (me among them) to retain control over creative rights and the publishing process, some turn to it because they haven’t gotten accepted at a publisher.  But some of those stories I’ve enjoyed more than what I’ve gotten from a trad publisher!

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

I think so!  It used to be assumed that indies were “trad publisher rejects,” but this isn’t always the case.  Lots of indies CHOOSE to publish this way.  And there have been a stream of previously traditionally publishing authors who have decided to go for indie publishing for a variety of reasons.

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

I don’t, but this is because I firmly believe “good” and “bad” are in the eye of the beholder.  A book I think is excellent or couldn’t put down or simply loved the characters, someone else may hate.  And a book I could barely finish may be someone else’s cup of tea.  I wouldn’t rule out a book over bad reviews and wouldn’t immediately read a book with lots of good reviews.  I usually make my decision on the cover, title, blurb and genre and them form my own opinion about the book as I read it.

End of Interview:

Check out Nellie’s reviews at her site, Nellie’s Book Nook.

The post Reviewer IndiView with Nellie Steele of Nellie’s Book Nook first appeared on The IndieView.

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