Would you like to join the Crew as a reviewer? #amreading

Our waiting list is growing by the day, and as we expand our reach online, it grows faster than we can keep up. Bec is an incredibly fast reader, and I read as much as I can. But we are still getting behind. The other members of the crew are not active in the review area. Except for Sharon, and her schedule doesn't allow for constant reading either. So for that reason, we are looking to expand our reading force. Are you interested?

I've been wanting to post something like this for a while. I've even hinted at that fact online, telling ones via Twitter that I want to add more members to the crew. A few even expressed interest. What I quickly realized, though, was that not just anyone will do. A lot of people like to read, but few may understand the principles this crew was founded on.

A little background

The original goal of this crew wasn't even about book reviews; hence why most of the members are not active in this area. We came together at first to publish our own stuff. The more I learned about self-publishing, though, the more I realized that we were getting ready to jump into the ocean with nothing more than arm floaties to keep us above water.

The idea of reviewing books was first about simply gaining an audience, but once we started, I realized that reviewing self-published books was a good way to learn about the industry—what works and what doesn't. That's also the reason we are holding our current short story writing competition. We want to network and learn.

I don't micro-manage the reviews for the most part (except for the occasional clarification), but even without doing so, we bring a certain quality to our reviews that I am proud of. We've been praised by our followers for being honest and fair, so for anyone who wants to join our reading force, they would need to have the same mentality.

If you're interested, take a look at some of our reviews—both the positive and the negative. I'm asking anyone that is interested in joining to turn in a guest review. There's a link on the left sidebar. You may also use the Contact feature in the top navigation menu to express your interest.

How we review

Bec: I like most of what I read but the more self published books I read the more I begin to notice some common flaws. If one of those flaws draws me out of the story or stands out I will mention it in a review, for the authors sake as much as the readers sake. I am probably the more critical member of the crew so aren't afraid to give a really critical review. However I try to write it in a way that will not offend the author.

Sharon: I have been lenient so far, probably because I’ve chosen the books to read by the genres and story summaries that I’ve liked to begin with. Also, the stories themselves were absolutely excellent in my opinion. They have had few editing issues, and the overall look and polish of professionally published books. I haven’t done a lot of reviews, but I’m doing more now, and I’m being more critical. I can now see the blatant differences between a good and bad story. As always, I’ll try to be gentle and diplomatic about poor reviews. As I do more reviews, I’ll probably look more into the plot and storyline issues, as opposed to concentrating on just editing and polish.

Me (Mark): I like most of what I read, so my reviews tend to be more positive than many book reviews you find online. As long as I am enjoying the story, I tend to overlook minor errors. If there's something about a book that I don't like, I don't immediatelly jump to a low rating. However, that doesn't mean I won't ever give a low rating. If there are several, notable things about a book that draw me away from the story, such as bad punctuation or grammar or a very unlikeable character, I will lower the rating accordingly.

A general guideline

The following is not set in stone. It's simply some aspects we think about when we rate, and how each each rating develops in our head. It's a mix of all three active reviewers.

5 stars: Really good story. Couldn't put down, great characters, great plot. A fabulous story that grabs the reader’s attention right from the start, and just doesn’t let go. It’s fast paced and exciting. There may be a few minor editing issues (grammar, spelling, punctuation), but it still has the look and polish of a professionally published novel, even if it’s self published.

4 stars: A slower paced story that takes a bit longer to attract the reader’s full attention, but still a very good read. There’s a few more editing problems such as grammar, etc. but not enough to detract from the storyline. It’s obviously self published, meaning that it doesn’t have the expensive editing and polish of a professional novel.

Bec's take on 4 stars: This is where things start to differ a bit, so I'll provide a few examples. 1. No grammatical/spelling/punctuation/other flaws but story is only merely good. Story itself is not up to 5 stars. 2. Great story but with enough flaws to pull out of the story. Errors/flaws detract from what would be a 5 star. Not enough flaws to bring down to a 3.

3 stars: A difficult story to read, because of a convoluted or confusing plotline. It’s laced with grammar / spelling / punctuation errors, as well as point-of-view and intermittent tenses issues. The editing issues overwhelm the story to the point that the storyline itself is buried, and the reader loses interest quickly.

Bec's take: Number of options again. 1. No errors but story is borderline good. Could be slow moving, boring, telling instead of showing, just not that great a plot, too predictable etc. May be good written story but one you did not enjoy or is not suited to you but you can see others may enjoy. 2. Some errors but only a good story. Errors are enough to bring story down from 4 stars to 3 stars. Option 3: Story which has potential to be 5 star but is significantly flawed. This could be a case of telling, not showing, poor characters etc. Some reason prevented you from really getting into it.

2 stars: A bad review. Multiple problems with the story or plot. A story that you didn't enjoy reading or it may have been a chore to read. You may not finish it. Difference between a 2 and a 1 star would be the degree of badness. A 2 star story may have potential with severe editing or a rewrite. These are the stereotypically bad stories that give self published books a bad name. Could have a number of self publishing errors.

1 star: We have yet to give a 1 star though some of Bec's 2 stars deserve it (by her own admission). A 1 star is a really bad story. May be a story that you didn't finish. 2 dimensional characters, poor plot, confusing plot, doesn't go anywhere etc. A story that you wouldn't recommend to anyone. Basically needs to be rewritten or scrapped. Or a story with so many errors that it is hard to read.