Welcome to… Helen Hollick
Please tell us a little about yourself. I am a UK author of Historical Fiction and Historical Adventure, published mainstream in the US and Indie here in the UK. In addition to my writing I am the UK Indie Review Editor for the Historical Novel Society
On average how many books do you read a month? Not as many as I would like, unfortunately, as my own writing (and the marketing that must go with promoting my Indie published books) does not leave me much time for reading. I also have poor eyesight so I either rely on clear, not too small print or my trusty Kindle! I try for two or three books a month though.
What genres do you enjoy? Historical fiction or adventure, some fantasy, science fiction or the occasional romantic comedy-type.
In your position as Indie Review Editor for the Historical Novel Society what do you look for in a book you would recommend? My role as editor is receiving books that have been submitted, adding them to the database and initially assessing them for review by the splendid review team of readers that I have. Most Indie books ‘pass’ the scrutiny, but I’m afraid it’s an immediate rejection if the layout and presentation is incorrect – the HNS aims to promote good indie-published fiction and we hope to prove that Indie writers can be every bit as good as mainstream authors, but to do this we have to be strict about presentation quality (in addition to writing quality of course!) This means that anything with the text left justified (ragged edge on the right hand margin instead of straight margins each side) or double or 1.5 spaced will be rejected. As will something with a tiny print or in an unsuitable font, such as comic sans. To be accepted as equal to mainstream indie authors must ensure that their books emulate the mainstream standard!
I do also get the pick of the books to read (there’s always a perk to a voluntary job isn’t there!) I find it thrilling to read so many really good indie writers – baffling why some of them have not been picked up by mainstream!
Please tell us a little about the society. The HNS is a literary society devoted to promoting the enjoyment of historical fiction. The Society is based in the USA and UK but welcomes members (who can be readers or writers) from all round the world. Through their print magazines, conferences, website, social media and the dynamism of their membership the HNS helps to bring the excitement of these novels to the widest audience. The HNS website:
How do you support authors and readers? By promoting their work as much as possible – when I personally come across a well written (and presented) book I am happy to promote it on my Facebook Page and Twitter Feed. Some authors I also welcome as guests on my blog.
Where do you tend to review? The HNS publishes indie reviews quarterly on their website. http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/?type=indie
Are you influenced by other reviews when choosing a book? No, I tend to go by what my friends say about a book – although I do often read indie books that have had good reviews by the HNS
What other factors influence your choice? I occasionally read books that have received unpleasant one star reviews on Amazon. I honestly cannot see why, if someone hated a book, they waste time writing a “this book is dreadful” type review. If you can’t say something good about a book, say nothing at all! Most times I find these reviewers are very wrong and I have thoroughly enjoyed the books they have dragged through the mud.
When reviewing what are the important criteria? Editing? Plot? Which factors do you overlook? (if any) I will overlook occasional typo errors – but not error after error. I also overlook commas and some punctuation formats – because I have discovered that the US and the UK have differing views about correct placement. Editing is extremely important – not just for grammar, punctuation and spelling, but for general technical construction – plot, characters, continuity… A good editor will pick up too much author’s voice or too many point of view changes (head hopping). Plot is important – but a well-written (and edited!) novel can be a wonderful read even if it has a poor plot.
What are your opinions on authors commenting on a review – negative and positive? Not a good idea for an author to protest about a poor review, although there are circumstances when this might be needed. (I have commented on Amazon about a poor review of an early edition of one of my books. I commented that this particular edition was no longer in print and had been re-published.) If you must reply, keep calm, keep polite and keep it short. Do not get into a rolling argument!
A lot of readers comment about a book with all 4 or 5 star reviews and nothing below as being suspicious? What do you think about this? That is such nonsense. A good book is a good book! Enough said.
Do you give negative reviews? No, although I do sometimes add a constructive comment (such as a book could benefit from another edit as it has several typos). If I HAVE to give a review, even though a book was not to my taste, I clearly state that I am having to review it (i.e. for the Amazon Vine project). I find something good to say, then add that it wasn’t quite my preferred type of book – which is my fault as a reader, not the author’s fault as a writer!
Do you mainly stick to your preferred genres, or would you consider reviewing outside your comfort zone? Yes to my genre, no to outside my zone – I just haven’t got time to read books I don’t want to read.
What are your opinions on paid reviews? (not including a copy of the book for review purposes only) I am not so keen. I’m not certain these are unbiased.
Do you deal with reviewing Indie books differently to how you review a mainstream book? Apart from the layout and presentation of an Indie book being taken into consideration – no.
Feel free to add your blog/website etc.
main Blog: http://ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com/
Leaning on the Gate – Devon Diary: http://leaningonthegate.blogspot.co.uk/