Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 8, 2018

Book Reviewer Interview

Today I have Rosi Hollinbeck visiting to tell us about being a book reviewer.

I met Rosi at the Avalon Writer’s Retreat and thought many of you would like to hear about what she does and how you can use this information to look for book reviews for your books or even how to review books, too.

How long have you been reviewing books and how did you get started?

One of my critique partners was often bringing new books to share with us at our meetings and even gave some of them to us. I asked her how she could manage that, as I know how expensive new books are. She told me she reviewed books for a local company and was able to keep the books she reviewed. That was basically her payment for her work. I asked her if they needed more reviewers, and she gave me the contact information. I spoke to the editor, and he asked me to read some issues to see the structure of the reviews, then write a couple sample reviews of any books I had read recently. After I turned those in, he invited me to join them. I have been writing reviews for them for the past several years.

Can you have any books you want? What is the process for getting the books?

I receive a list about every three weeks with all the books they have available broken down by category. I look through all the children’s and YA books first. Any titles or authors that look interesting to me, I check out on Amazon. I read the descriptions carefully and try only to choose books that are the sort of thing I like. Beyond kid’s books, I choose a handful of other things — the occasional cookbook, mystery, poetry collection, or travel book, but I really focus on children’s fiction and non-fiction. They mail the books out to most reviewers but I live near the office, so I stop by to pick up my books. That gives me another chance to check them out before I take them, and I can browse through the book shelves and pick up anything else that catches my eye. Also, if I know of a book that will be coming out that interests me, I can ask them to request a review copy for me. They don’t always get a response from the publishers, but more often than not, I will receive the books I have asked for.

What do you look for when you are reviewing?

First, I try to read like a reader. I try very hard to put my writing and editing cap away, and just read. And I try to read like a kid — to keep my sense of curiosity and wonder open. I’m trying to figure out how a kid would see the book and whether or not it speaks to that age group. Will a kid like this book? Will it enrich children’s lives? Are they being exposed to good writing? Are there characters who are real, who have flaws, and, most of all, do they grow and change? I want to find a great story that will compel readers to keep on turning those pages. Otherwise, what is the point?

What is the book reviewer you work for? How does an author get a review?

The company has four on-line reviews — San Francisco Book Review, Manhattan Book Review, Tulsa Book Review, and Portland Book Review. You can do an internet search and find them easily. They have instructions on the website about getting reviews. There are no guarantees every book will be reviewed, but they print a LOT of reviews every month. One can also purchase a review. Then they are guaranteed a review, but not guaranteed what kind of review. The reviewers write their honest opinions whether it’s a paid review or not. This is typical. One can buy a reviews from most reviewing publications — even Kirkus does it. I receive a small payment on the paid reviews. By the way, they are always looking for reviewers and you don’t have to live close by, so check out their home page if you want to become a reviewer.

How many books a year do you review?

Generally I review a couple hundred books. A lot of those are picture books, but I really do read a great many novels every year. One year I actually wrote over 600 reviews, but that was just a personal challenge to see how much I could possibly do in a year. It was crazy and I won’t be trying that again.

What do you do with all those books? Your house must be overflowing!

Of course, I keep some — mostly those I want as mentor texts for my picture book writing and my novel writing. I give most of the picture books and some books for middle graders and high schoolers to the library at my granddaughter’s charter school. They have such a tiny budget! They are thrilled to get the ones I don’t keep, and I feel like I am really contributing something important. The books I receive that are paperbacks or ARCs, I give away on my blog. I participate in Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday. Every week I post some links to good writing posts I have read as well as a review of a middle-grade book. More often than not, I have a giveaway as well. You can check my blog out here: https://rosihollinbeck.com/blog/. If you sign up to follow, you will receive an email each time I post, and you will never miss the giveaways. And I don’t share information with anyone, so you won’t be spammed. Occasionally, I am contacted directly by an author or publicist and receive books I review only on my blog and not for the book review. That’s fun, too, because I have a little more freedom in the review.

Other than getting free books, are there benefits to you in doing this?

Yes, there are great benefits. For one, I really get to see the latest trends in the publishing business, see what particular types of books come out of the different publishing companies, and, of course, it keeps me in great reading material. It also looks good on my resume. I think when I write a query, that part of my experience stands out. But perhaps the best thing is the writing discipline it gives me. I have a limit of two-hundred words for a regular review. The paid reviews are longer — at least four-hundred words, but I only do a few of those a year. I have to get a lot of information in that two-hundred words, so I have to be succinct and get to the point. I don’t use a lot of adverbs! But I have to admit, the best for me is to be able to give so many books to the charter school and to have the best, up-to-date books to give away on my blog. Sometimes I can even give away books before they have been published, so that is fun.

Do you have any particular favorites you have read recently?

In the picture book category, my favorite this year has been We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins. I still carry that book around in my bag and read it now and then when I need to have a good laugh. It’s hysterical. It’s harder to choose in the MG category, but I would put One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock, The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Claire by Amy Makechnie, and Drive by Joyce Moyer Hostetter at the top of my list this year. I don’t think I could pick a favorite of those three. They are all so good and so different.

Author Biography – Rosi Hollinbeck

Rosi writes mostly for children, but occasionally writes for adults as well. Her work has appeared in two editions of Today’s Little Ditty poetry anthologies, A Miracle Under the Christmas Tree anthology, and in Highlights, High Five, and Humpty Dumpty magazines. Her story-poem The Monster Hairy Brown was published in Thynks (London) anthology 50 Funny Poems for Children.. An excerpt of one of her novels appears in the Noyo River Literary Review 2018. She regularly writes book reviews for four on-line book reviews and for her blog at http://www.rosihollinbeck.com.

Thanks, Rosi, for stopping by and telling us about being a book reviewer.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Rosi: Thanks for an interesting interview about a dream job.

    Like

  2. Thank you for this informative and interesting interview!

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  3. Such valuable information, ladies 🙂 Thank you!

    Like

  4. Wow, so insightful, thank you!

    Like

  5. Thanks for the insights, Rosi and for being a regular on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

    Like

  6. This was a great interview. Rosi is in one of my critique groups and we’ve been friends for several years, but this actually helped me know her even better. I follow her blog, and she’s an excellent reviewer, and she posts some great links for writers to read.

    Like

  7. I love Rosi’s reviews!

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  8. Not sure how I missed this blog post, but it was fun to read your process, Rosi. I loved your point about trying to see how a child or young person would view the book. I can’t say I actually do that. I should try being more succinct in my reviews–I tend to be so long! Thanks for hosting her, Kathy!

    Like

  9. Now, I understand your relationship with the San Francisco Book Review and the reason your reviews are so exceptional. Didn’t realize you can be paid for reviewing. And, I can’t imagine how you read so many books a year and write your own manuscripts. Loved the interview.

    Like

  10. Good interview. I think it’s so great that you give many of your reviewed books to your granddaughter’s school.

    Like


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