Katie McNeill writes reviews for Blogcritics Magazine and her own blog, Katie's Reading. She specializes in what she loves to read, paranormal books — from horror to dark fantasy to paranormal romance. She also writes a weekly column for Blogcritics called "Beyond Bounds: The Paranormal and Fantasy with Katie." If you'd like your book reviewed by Katie, visit her blog and drop her an email. In this interview, she talks about the influence of reviews and she also compares reviewers who write nasty, mean reviews to playground bullies seeking attention.
Thanks for this interview, Katie. How long have you been reviewing?
I’ve been reviewing for over two years now.
Please tell us about your blog, Katie's Reading. How and when did it get started?
I started blogging almost three years ago and Katie’s Reading is my third attempt at keeping a blog running. I tend to get really wrapped up in it for awhile until something else grabs my interest and then the blog suffers. But this one is concentrated on reviews and book news only and that helps a little when it comes to updating.
How long have you been writing for Blogcritics Magazine? Please tell us about your paranormal column.
I’ve been writing for Blogcritics for over two years. It’s a great outlet and I’m constantly amazed by the amount of e-mail I get because someone has seen a review I wrote. I started the column a few months ago and I’m still working on it. It’s concentrated on paranormal and fantasy because that’s what I tend to read the most and we didn’t have a column that focused on those genres.
How many books do you review a month?
The number of books I review varies from month to month. I tend to read an average of four books a week and not all of those get reviewed. Sometimes it’s nice just to read something and not feel like you have to take notes mentally. But I’ve found that even when I don’t intend to write a review I usually do. It’s just so hard not to talk about what I’m reading.
Do you publish freelance reviews by other writers, or only those written by you?
On Katie’s Reading I only publish my own. I don’t have the energy or time to expand it to include other people’s reviews. And honestly I can’t see anyone wanting to publish their work on my blog when they could build one for themselves.
How should an author contact you about a review request? Do you review e-books as well?
If an author is interested in contacting me my e-mail is listed on Katie’s Reading. At the moment I’m trying to steer clear of e-books. I spend so much time on the computer at work and then at home. When I finally do get a chance to read it’s nice to get away from the computer.
In your opinion, how influential are reviews on the consumer?
A reader is always going to be surfing around for what they want to add to their stack of to-be-read books. A good review is a great jumping off point. If I’m really interested in a book I tend to read all the reviews I can find so that I get a well rounded idea if the book. I think that most people are like that. But then there are always those spur of the moment purchases that everyone makes.
What do you look for in a book review?
I’m one of those very odd people that will usually read the end of the book first. So in a book review I don’t mind spoilers or major plot points being revealed, as long as it’s well written and entertaining.
Do you think the average reviewer can review a friend's book and still be objective?
I would like to think so. If the book is bad and you’ve been honest in your review about it a friend should appreciate your honesty. But hopefully the book is fantastic.
Do you think a review written by a reader has less value than one written by a professional reviewer? What defines a true 'reviewer'?
A true reviewer can read anything, not just what their personal preference might be, and present the book in an entertaining way flaws included. A lot of people will read just what they like and it’s easy to write a review for something you love. The test is reading something you dislike but not having that cloud your review for the book.
What is your stand on paid reviews?
I would love to be paid for mine. Writing is a business and I think that anyone who starts a blog or starts writing reviews for a site has the voice in the back of their head that says “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if I got paid for this?” We would all like to get paid to do something we love. Is it more or less objective? I think that would depend on the person writing it. I would hope that if you were getting paid to review something you would still be honest. Not to mention that you would get paid for a bad or a good review because the person paying you wouldn’t be the author.
Do you keep the author's feelings in mind when you review?
I do. I know how hard it is to write a novel. I keep in mind that the author spent untold hours agonizing and editing and pouring over pages. If something stands out, weak plot or flat characters I’ll mention that, but I also try to pick out redeeming points in the book. It’s possible to be honest about the book with out bashing an author.
If a book is terrible, do you think a reviewer should write and publish the review, or should she decline to write a review?
I think that if you have a book to review, good or bad, you should review it.
There are some bloggers out there who have acquired fame as tough reviewers because of their harsh, nasty reviews. What's behind this philosophy?
Mostly I think it's attention seeking. It’s so hard to get noticed on the web and one of the easiest ways is to be nasty. It’s like a bully on the playground. You might not be getting positive attention but you’re still getting attention.