Charlotte Foreman runs the fabulous book blog BestChickLit.com. She first began reading actual novels at around age 11 after a series of children’s books based on urban legends was published, although they’d now probably be classed as YA. Charlotte says, “They became the latest fad at my middle school and anyone who was anyone was reading them – they scared the pants off me, to be honest, but I slowly waded my way through them. A few years later my reading addiction was cemented after I read Flowers in the Attic by V C Andrews and ‘borrowed’ my mum’s copy of Jilly Cooper’s Riders.”
Charlotte, tell us about BestChickLit.com.
I set the site up at the end of 2011 with idea of reviewing all genres of women’s fiction. Initially it was just me and I hadn’t even thought about needing more reviewers but the site grew at such an alarming rate, I realized I needed more people. I began recruiting about 6 months after the site started and now have a team of 7 who are all incredible and a real credit to the site.
As well as reviewing, hosting interviews, news and general promo posts, we also provide a set of Author Services, which include editing, proof-reading, blog tours, book blurb writing, press releases and a Jump The Queue Book Review service.
We normally post every day, Monday to Friday, and quite often have to double up.
We’ve now just branched out into men’s fiction with our ‘brother’ site BestChapLit.com.
How do you select and/or prioritize the books you read?
Books are generally reviewed on a first come, first served basis, unless we have agreed to post on a specific date for a blog tour or something similar.
We also offer a Jump The Queue Book Review service, which guarantees a book is reviewed within 2 weeks and also provides the author with 2 weeks Facebook and Twitter promotion. I will stress that this is not a paid-for-review service, just a way to bypass our waiting list. Our reviews remain honest and constructive and this fact is made very clear to any inquiring authors.
How deep is your TBR pile?
Too deep! It was well over a hundred at the last count but that was probably a couple of months ago so I have no idea where it is now. We accept books from mainstream, indie and self-published authors and review every book that comes our way, no matter how long it takes us to get to it.
Tell us about the rating/scoring system you use:
We don’t rate/score books on the site because I don’t think this method is very productive, as a reader can be put off before they’ve even read the actual review. Unfortunately we are forced to rate books when adding them to Amazon and Goodreads but there’s nothing we can do about that.
We are very fair reviewers. I truly believe authors pour their heart and souls into their books and so it’s not fair to rip them apart on such a public platform. That’s not to say we don’t point out a book’s fault, we do, but we do it in a tactful and constructive manner.
Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a book you thought you wouldn’t like?
Yes! I’ve never liked historical fiction and always dished out those types of books to the other reviewers, until Jane Lark sent in her regency period romance, Illicit Love. All the other reviewers were incredibly busy so I thought I’d take one for the team and read it. The book was a great surprise and I was totally hooked. I’ve since gone on to read a few more historical romances.
Have you ever been disappointed in a book you thought you’d love?
Ummm, none that I can think of. I’m pretty easy to please, if I’m honest.
What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?
Kicking up a fuss about bad reviews is a major no no, if you ask me. Everyone has an opinion and an author simply cannot expect to censor reviewers. Some blogs are brutal and, whether rightly or wrongly, it’s their right to review on their site however they see fit.
I understand a negative review is upsetting for an author and that they have opinions but blogger bashing is never the way to go. Rant and rave to friends and family in private but never put your grievances online. I guarantee it will turn into a mass online brawl and draw a lot attention to a review you’d prefer to disappear.
Tell us about any pet peeves you have as a reader.
Convenient character or plot developments is one thing I particularly don’t like – oh look, the sword to save the world just happened to be in this cupboard, girl falls in love with boy for no apparent reason, characters discovering the plot twist with no effort . . . that sort of thing.
Lack of character development is another thing that does bug me a little – tell me more about why a character is so damaged, killing people, worried about the state of his/her marriage etc.
Would you say you more often find yourself loving a book it seems everyone hates, or hating a book everyone else is raving about?
I tend to be a lover. I’m a pretty laid-back reader; I find reading very relaxing and generally go with the flow.
What can authors do to ensure a good relationship with book bloggers?
Personalise emails/review requests. When authors contact book bloggers in the hope of securing a review, they are basically asking for a chunk of their time for nothing. Take the time to find out who you are emailing and look around their site. This rule also definitely applies to mass emails.
Some authors might think the fact that bloggers are getting a free book is payment enough, but if the next email in line has a more personal feel, guess which one will be ignored . . .
If you read a book you think is just terrible, how do you handle that?
There’s always at least one good thing in every book so I’d pick up on that and then remain constructive on the rest. Alternatively, if I thought the book was unreviewable, I’d contact the author to discuss.
What was your worst experience with an author?
Considering how many authors I’ve dealt with, I’ve only had a few very minor occurrences. Just the odd stroppy email about when their book is going to be reviewed, very tame really.
I’ve seen a good number of other bloggers have bad experiences with authors over social media sites and it’s not nice. It’s not something I would ever want to be involved in.
Thanks for a great interview. Please check out BestChickLit.com and make it a regular stop on your trip down the information highway.