From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Answers from a Book Reviewer: Interview with Lori Hettler

Hey guys! One thing that is incredibly important to us writers is getting reviews. Positive reviews, hopefully, but reviews. So today I thought I'd take the opportunity to ask one of the fabulous book bloggers around the interwebz a few questions about how to get buzz for our books, and making it good buzz.

So please give a warm welcome to the wonderful Lori Hettler.

1. First things first. What kind of books do you review and how does a writer get you to review theirs?

I prefer to read and review small press literature. The edgier, the better. I can’t seem to get enough of it. And it doesn’t help that there’s never enough time to read it all, either. It’s absolute torture.

Even still, I’ve been known to accept genre literature and self published novels for review if they are pitched well and catch my interest. A well pitched book will definitely get my attention. I’m more likely to take a chance on a book I wouldn’t have normally read if the author personalizes the pitch, something as simple as naming books I’ve reviewed that are similar to theirs in style or theme. It also helps to have links to the book, access to an excerpt… and I’m a bit of a goodreads snob. If the book isn’t listed on goodreads, I tend to turn it away or recommend that the author add it there.

2. What can a writer do to make themselves and their book stand out to you and to your readers?

Well, as I mentioned, a strong, personalized pitch certainly makes a book stand out.

If the author comes highly recommended from other authors I’ve read, that’ll definitely get me to look at it. The small press publishing world is so interconnected, and they’re passionate about each others books. They are incredibly supportive of each other, and I eat that shit up. If I read you and loved your book, and you recommend me to an author you’ve read and loved, I’m all over that.

But wait, I’m not sure that answers your question, does it, cause in that case, the writer is not the one pitching his book to me… Hmmm…

Other things that help a book stand out? A great cover. Nothing makes me cringe more than a crappy cover. And a well edited book, that’s a huge win in my eyes. If I’m reading your book, and catching grammatical errors, I’m eye-rolling myself through it. I’m no grammar expert, so if I’m noticing, it’s got to be baaaaad.

Making the book stand out to my readers would really fall on me… right? The way I review what I’ve read can influence my readers to either take a chance on it or run away from it. And I always keep my readers in mind when I review a book. I use a rating scale that rates a book by what I think others would like, not so much what I like. In the rating, I recommend the books to fans of XXXXX or people looking for XXXXX. I think that helps them make the decision for themselves, rather than me making it for them, you know?

3. Describe a writer who is the easiest possible person to work with.

You mean without naming names, right? Like, listing their personality traits? I love authors who don’t let my feelings about their book get in the way of our interaction with each other. Authors who don’t check in on whether or not I’ve read their book 20 times. Authors who jump at every opportunity to whip something up for my blog because they like the challenge and find my silly ideas fun and interesting. Basically, someone who’s not just a book-puppet, but an actual human being with an actual personality who can separate themselves from their writing and just be.

4. What is the difference between a book that gets a positive review and a book that sends you out into the streets screaming “You all must read this book!!!”

The difference between “This book was really good” versus “Oh my god, I would marry this book immediately if marrying inanimate objects were legal!”? That’s a tough one. I don’t know if I could describe the difference. It’s really just something I feel, something visceral. If I just instantly start crushing on the book and its author… it’s a run out into the streets screaming kind of book, or if I’m gulping it down in one sitting while freaking out because reading it fast means it’ll be over faster vs. meandering through it and enjoying it but not really concerning myself with the pace of it.

5. Any type of review is inherently subjective. Our moods change. What happens when you have to review when you’re just having a crappy day? Is there a way for authors to keep this from happening? Send you chocolate, maybe?

Ha! Bribe me with chocolate, boys! (Just kidding)

I used to review books immediately upon reading them. I felt I was able to channel my emotions and initial thoughts more clearly that way. My mood, bad or otherwise, at that point, was always based on my feelings towards the book and would dictate the tone of the review and I never felt apologetic for it.

Now, books linger weeks and sometimes months after I’ve read them before I attempt to review (mainly due to lack of time, not for any real conscious reason). I’m not as happy with my reviews this way, because I believe distance taints my views on them, and also makes them come off a bit more bland, but it is what it is.

If I’m in a bad mood, and it has nothing to do with the book, just a crap hand I was dealt that day? Well, in that case, I wouldn’t be in the mood to review, so there would be no worries about my non-book-related mood infiltrating the review.

And sadly, to date, when a bad mood strikes, no amount of chocolate or anything else for that matter, helps to move me through it. Unless I’m reading a kick-ass book. A great book is the cure for any and all bad moods!!
Lori Hettler is the founder and moderator of TNBBC. Her passion for supporting the small press and self publishing communities began when she birthed The Next Best Book Club on Goodreads back in 2007, a group which now boasts an unbelievable 11,500 members who are collectively, endlessly, searching for the next best book! She also puts her lit-loving heart to work for Chicago Center of Literature and Photography (CCLaP) as their Marketing Director. When she’s not curled up on the couch with a good book, you can find Lori on TwitterGoodreads, and Facebook.


  1. I enjoyed reading this interview. Great blog post idea, Sarah. :)

    Lori, I admire you for supporting the small press and self-pub community. I also admire you for being able to write a review that long after reading a book. My memory is way to bad for that. LOL I even make highlights and notes in my Kindle so I can remember everything I wanted to comment on when I finish. :P

  2. Great interview, Sarah and Lori!

    Now I'm off to check out Lori's blog, even though my TBR pile is trembling at the idea.... :)

  3. Great interview. Interesting to read from a reviewer's perspective :-)

  4. Book-puppet, what a great way to describe someone who doesn't have a life or personality outside promoting their book.

  5. Book puppet is funny. I definitely have a life outside of my writing.
    Thanks for supporting small presses. My publisher works hard to get reviews for my book.

  6. Great, informative interview... And I love the creativity in her answers.

  7. Great informative and interesting interview Lori and Sarah!



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