Monday 7 August 2017

Through a Reviewer's Eyes

Reviewer Richard Tearle talks about....


Purely on a whim, I applied, via Social Media, to a plea for reviewers of  books of historical fiction. Having always enjoyed reading about characters of history, I thought, well, why not? I soon found myself caught up not only in the stories that others had created, but the hoary problem facing all Independent (Indie) writers. Like many, I had assumed that Indie Publishing was either something akin to Vanity Publishing or books that weren't good enough for mainstream publishers. 

How wrong I was!

True, many such authors have had the humiliation of rejection, but publishers are busy people with schedules months, if not years, in advance. They can't take everything, no matter how good it may prove later to be.

Thanks to Helen Hollick (author of two books about late Anglo Saxon England, an Arthurian trilogy and the wonderful Sea Witch Voyages) who is the founder of the Indie section of this review blog, Discovering Diamonds, I was given some basic guidelines on how to judge a book – with or without a decent cover.  Back then, Helen managed a different indie review section, but came up with the idea for her own site when she parted company with the group. I plagued her quite relentlessly when I was unsure about a style, a story or other points of order. So, I was learning how to read a book at the ripe old age of, well, retired, shall we say. Because of this status, I had plenty of time on my hands.

From the beginning it was a learning curve – I enjoyed the book, but was it a great one? I likened it to Nadia Comenici, the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 – if you give a perfect score, how do you score something later which turns out to be better? So I read – or rather – wrote – between the (guide)lines and added my own rules.

I would always consider that the author had spent blood, sweat and tears in producing their baby – often financing and publicising it themselves. Therefore every effort should be made by me to honour that commitment from the author by being fair. If a book simply wasn't good enough – in my judgement – then I should state why but in a constructive manner. If, on the other hand, a book was really well written, with a good story and strong characters, should I rush into things and automatically recommend it for 'Book of the Month' (with the possibility of also becoming Book of the Year) or stop it just short of that declaring it as 'thoroughly recommended'? 

To distinguish, I try to find anything that might be wrong – an uninteresting cover (or one that obscures any blurb or other information), were there any typos, grammatical errors, basic formatting (any of the above in excess would be an automatic rejection – them's the rules) or any plot lines that simply did not add up. If it meets all the criteria so far, then I try and visualise it on the shelves of W.H.Smith or Waterstones: would it stand well in the company of established and more famous authors?

Impartiality is a vital watchword. Just because I happen to love tales of Vikings, Anglo Saxons or the later Plantagenets doesn't give me licence to give an automatic 'rave review'. Similarly, the Georgian period, Hanovarians generally as well as many other periods of history, whether British or other, which hold no interest for me mean that I cannot simply dismiss the book as 'boring'. I am reviewing the standard of writing, presentation and storytelling, not my personal preferences.

It can be hard sometimes. Nothing wrong with it, but just not captivating. The writer hasn't found his or her voice. And if I have to give it a poor review, it is not me who might get it in the neck from an outraged author, but Helen. [HH: note - all rude e-mails are automatically deleted!] Having said that, I have read some terrific books and, over the several years that I have been doing this, the standard is definitely improving. Out of some 150 books I have received for review, I think I have failed to finish only a few– and all for legitimate reasons.

There are good things, though. Through reviewing I have made many friends who are authors and whose books I have reviewed favourably. And though it is unpaid, what better way to spend one's time than reading?

Richard Tearle
DDRevs Senior Reviewer

If anyone is able to accept e-books (e-pub or mobi)
 and would like to become an #DDRevs Reviewer
please contact me HERE
(I am on vacation for a few weeks but your email will be answered asap)


  1. It is, as you say, Richard, a lot more complicated than simply reading a book and deciding whether or not you liked it. Authors and readers alike are grateful for the careful consideration given to each book, and the diligence of reviewers who are mindful both of the author's efforts and the reader's expectations.

    1. Thank you, Annie. Of course it's easier to read something you like rather than struggle through a book set in a period you have no interest in, but the same rules apply. I've read many books I would never ever buy, but one must be mindful that others do like them and I aim my reviews at them.

  2. Hello, Richard,
    It's nice to meet one of the faces behind the reviews.
    You do (all of you) an incredible job, and I'm sure authors and readers alike appreciate your efforts.

    1. Thank you, Loretta; I must admit I really enjoy it! Must give a big shout out for the others on Discovering Diamond who work hard for 'the cause'!!

  3. An interesting explanation, Richard. Thanks for taking the time to share your process!

  4. Thank you for your cpmment, Stephanie - its an interesting 'job'!

  5. Reviewing isn't easy, nor is accepting a reviewer's opinion always easy to swallow, especially if the 'review' is blatantly unfair. We try our hardest to give honest and constructive reviews here at #DDrevs.

  6. Very interesting to read about your worthy approach to reviewing, Richard. Full marks for tackling the challenge and for showing your approach. I find reviewing other writers hard as I know what the process entails.

    1. Thank you, Roland. I think that is where I may have an advantage: aside from the obvious looking out for typos/formatting errors etc., I do read as a reader andthe overall verdict is 'Did I enjoy this or, if not, would other people'


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