Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Friend - Suzie Tullett talks about Reviews

Please welcome today's Friday Friend, Suzie Tullett, who first tels us something about herself:

I was born and raised in Lancashire and after leaving school I undertook a variety of jobs – from office work to teaching in Further Education, from managing a Training & Advice Centre to being an outreach worker for Women’s Aid. So, it’s fair to say my working life has given me the chance to get to know all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds; a definite asset for anyone looking to write for a living.

Amidst all of this, I was also raising a family, whilst at the same time working towards a BA (Hons) in Women’s Studies. The latter being something that finally encouraged me to take my writing aspirations more seriously and as such, I then went on to obtain a MA in Television & Radio Scriptwriting. Fortunately, this led to my being chosen by the BBC for their New Writers’ Initiative – a break that culminated in the opportunity to work on their continuing drama series, Doctors.

Even so, this still didn’t stop me continuing to dabble in the world of prose and testing the waters with a bit of poetry and a few short stories, I was lucky enough to garner a modicum of success through publication, allowing me the confidence to put a future in scriptwriting to one side, in favour of a career as a full-time novelist. So, after successfully graduating from the London School of Journalism’s Novel Writing Course I now write contemporary women’s fiction and because in my view you can’t put a price on laughter, it tends to have a very humorous slant.

Are Reviews Really All That Important?

There’s been a lot of discussion around reviews of late, particular those left on on-line book stores. People seem to be wondering if the vast majority are, indeed, worth the paper (or in this instance, the screen) they’re written on? They ask if they’re genuine? Or just written by an author’s family and friends? And there’s even some suggestion that alleged readers have reviewed books without actually doing any reading – and all for a fee!

Naturally, this raises the question as to whether or not such reviews are actually all that important? However, in my experience as both an author and a reader, my response is that yes, I think they are.

Firstly, as an author I wouldn’t dream of paying someone for a good review and I very much doubt any of my peers would either. Not only is this bad form, it’s a sign that we might not have sufficient confidence to let our work speak for itself; which then beggars the question, if this is the case, why we’d be putting it out there for people to read in the first place?

Secondly, as professional writers we’re not doing what we do purely for family and friends; we’re pouring everything we have into our latest magnum opus for you, the book reading public. So as such, it’s your opinions we want to read about on these sites, not those of our loved ones. So like me, I don’t think the majority of authors would waste their time cooking the books, so to speak, as it doesn’t serve any purpose. Furthermore, we also know the importance of ‘word of mouth’ when it comes to recommending one book over another and these online review sites do operate as a virtual ‘word of mouth’ system. Of course, this  means any negative reviews also get their fair share of attention, but as with every other profession we have  to take the rough with the smooth.

Now let’s look at it from a reader’s point of view. As readers, do we really want to fork out our hard-earned cash on a book that sounds ok, but it’s written by an Author we’ve never come across before? Especially in these financially strapped times of ours? Of course, if we stick with the authors we know and love, we could simply be denying ourselves the opportunity to broaden our reading experiences; but still, we don’t want to waste our money, time and effort just to end up ploughing through something we’re not quite enjoying…

Then again and on a positive note, at least a physical book can enhance the look of a bookcase, so it’s not a complete waste of money. But do we really want a list of titles clogging up our e-readers because it turns out what we’ve just bought isn’t particularly our thing? No siree… no matter how cheap a download, we still want to enjoy what we read!

Of course, that’s when these on-line reviews sites come into their own. We get to see who thought what and why, good and bad; and like all of you, I know I’m intelligent enough to decipher what’s genuine and what’s not. And let’s face it, even a negative review can simply be a troll with an agenda…

Either way, having read what other readers have to say on a particular book, at least we get to make a more informed choice over our reading material.

Suzie's latest release is 'Going Underground'

At 8 ¾ months pregnant, Tracey Parkes has everything she wants in life. A nice house, even if it is a bit on the small side, a long awaited baby on the way and a reliable husband to boot...
Well, as reliable as a husband can be when he’s keeping a long held secret – a secret she’s desperate to uncover.
But with Jonathan continuing to keep schtum over the whole thing, Tracey is forced to turn to his past for answers. And it’s the unfortunate death of his old friend Malcolm that provides her with just the opportunity she’s been waiting for – an opportunity she soon wishes she hadn’t taken.
Of course, the last thing Tracey expects is to find both herself and her humongous belly squashed into the back of a classic, little Mini – all in a desperate attempt to catch up with three men on two vintage scooters. But with Jonathan seemingly hell bent on facing up to a past he’s spent years trying to forget, what choice does the mother-to-be have?


“Did you know,” asked Megan. “That the name ‘Louise’ actually means ‘famous battle maid’?”

All very interesting, considered Tracey, at the same time wondering what on earth the girl was going on about. But a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will suffice.

“And everyone knows that grief can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do, don’t they?” she continued.

Yep, now I’m completely lost, the mother-to-be couldn’t help but tell herself – unable to quite connect the two statements in relation to each other, let alone with a request to drive both her and Andrea down to Brighton.

“And should one particular famous battle maid feel the grief stricken need, the last thing I want is my Ace Face in a position where he has no choice but to oblige, isn’t it?”

“Right…” said Tracey and in realising this was all somehow part of Megan’s decision making process, she found herself slowly nodding in agreement – despite not having a clue as to what it was that she was actually agreeing with.

In fact, none of what this young woman was saying was making any sense whatsoever and she began to wonder if this had been such a good idea after all.

She looked to Andrea for some assistance.

“So, does that mean you will drive us to Brighton then?” Andrea duly obliged.

“Yes,” came Megan’s simple reply. “Of course it does.”

Tracey shook her head, by now completely baffled.

“Louise is Malc’s girlfriend,” whispered Andrea, by way of an explanation. “The plan is for her to meet up with the boys when it comes to them scattering his ashes.”

Not that Tracey gave one iota who planned to be present, as long as by then Jonathan wasn’t amongst them.

“You two load your bags up,” Megan instructed, whilst pointing in the general direction of the garage. “I’ll go and let mum and dad know where I’m off and then I’ll grab my toothbrush.”

Tracey watched her happily head off back inside the house, at the same time speculating over whether or not she’d inadvertently entered some sort of twilight zone – a feeling that only got worse when Andrea proceeded to lift the up and over garage doors, revealing what had been hidden within.

She looked from what she saw to Andrea and back again.

“You’ve got to be kidding?” she said. “Someone please tell me this isn’t happening.”

'Going Underground' is available on-line and in all good book stores, in both paperback and e-reader formats

Buy Links:



Thank you so much for being our Friday Friend today, Suzie, and wishing you every success with 'Going Underground' and your future writing career.


  1. Thanks for having me today, Paula and the gang. Looking forward to reading what you're followers think of my contribution x

  2. Hi Suzie. I agree with everything you have to say about on-line reviews. Of course an intelligent person can tell whether they're likely to be genuine and we all want real opinions. I DO read the reviews when I'm choosing a book, so I know at least one person does!
    Also, I heard recently that Amazon gives your book a higher profile according to how many customer reviews it has. So it would appear that AMAZON thinks they matter

  3. I also read the reviews, Jenny, when deciding on which books to buy. I'm all for making informed choices x

  4. I pay little or no attention to reviews unless (1)it's one of mine or (2)an author asks me to read it. Then I'm usually happy to.
    They can be a mixed blessing.
    My daughter, on the other hand always reads reviews for a book she's considering for her Kindle.

    I worked as a reviewer for a site for almost a year. It's pretty much a thankless job--the reviewer gets little or no credit--my reward? I got the free book. I don't consider that enough compensation, because it it time-consuming.
    However, by reviewing and using the guidelines, I learned more about how to make my own writing better.
    Amazon makes reviews highly important to move up in the world. But the review sites that do this as part of their job, don't post theirs--usually--on Amazon. So what we see may be skewed..maybe...maybe not.
    Good topic.

  5. Hi Suzie, thanks for being our guest today. I find reviews helpful, especially when the publisher's description of the book is not very detailed. I don't necessarily want to know every twist and turn, but I usually want more than the 1 paragraph that the publisher provides. I keep in mind that everyone's opinions are different, though. As an author, I love when people give me reviews. Can't wait to try your book--excerpt sounds great!

  6. Great to read your post, Suzie! I tend to view reviews with skepticism. Some people LOVE to cut things down. Others hate to say anything unkind. Reviews are subjective, down to the reviewer's intent.
    Honest reviews are the best. So the integrity of the reviewer is key, IMO.

  7. Hi Suzie,

    Welcome to Heroines with Hearts!

    Reviews are definitely an interesting subject in the writing world. The good ones can give our heart wings and make us burst with pride, but even the bad ones get our names and our work out there. How does the saying go? Any publicity is good publicity. And reading is so personal when it comes to likes and dislikes.

    I love the concept of the new book! Thanks for sharing the blurb and excerpt.

  8. Hi, Celia. Glad to hear something good came out of your time as a reviewer. I'm not sure it's something I could do professionally - I'd wonder if it would ruin the enjoyment of reading x

  9. Thanks for you kind words about Going Underground, Jennifer and if you do pick a copy up, I hope you really enjoy the read.

    When it comes to reviews, I agree it's important to recognise they are, indeed, subjective, but that they can be useful at the same time x

  10. Hi, Ana. Again, I agree it's important to acknowledge the subjectivity involved and yes, honest reviews are definitely key x

  11. Thanks for the kind welcome, Debra and your words regarding Going Underground.

    The subject of reviews can certainly get people talking, on which ever side of the fence they sit x

  12. Some of the 1* reviews start with 'I got this book for free', or, 'I didn't finish this book, but'. To me, anyone who has not completely read a book is not qualified to comment. Also, if it was free and you didn't enjoy it, move on, stay quiet.

    I am about to put myself out there for the reviews, and to be honest, the only ones that will matter are the ones not written in crayon. :D

    Interesting interview/post.

  13. I think reviews are extremely important, particularly for new authors. Good reviews make the unknown author a little less scary for new readers. I have a friend who won't take a chance on a new author unless they have at least five five-star ratings on amazon. Yes they matter.

  14. Hi, Glynis.

    Even 1* reviews should be constructive... but as you say, if the reviewer hasn't finished reading the book concerned, we have to question how much use their review actually is x

  15. Thanks for dropping in, A.M.Burns. I'm sure your friend has discovered some fabulous authors as a result x

  16. Speaking both as a author and as a reviewer, I must agree with your assessment, Suzie.

    We as authors long for affirmation, but we want to hear it from a source we respect. So a glowing review from Mom does not, unfortunately, work in the same way as a review, even not quite so glowing, from a fellow author whose works we admire; or even from an incognito reviewer who we can see has insights into our writing.

    As a reviewer, I always try to aim for uplifting the author, first and foremost, when it's deserved. And only second do I try to convince a reader to buy it. I tell the truth as I see it, recognizing the hard work the author put into it, then leave it for the reader to decide.

    Your article is thoughtful and well written. Thank you.

  17. Hi, Erin.

    That's why reviews need to be honest and balanced in their content, so that a reader truly can decide... And also so Authors get a fair assessment of the work they've put into their books...

    Thanks for you kind word about the post x

  18. I think reviews are valuable for us authors because they get your work out there and read. You'll never please all of the people but as long as you get a balance of good reviews to leaven the odd bad one, I don't think people pay that much attention. We all know it's a matter of taste in most cases.
    Good luck with the new book!

  19. Thanks, Liz. You're right about us not being able to please everyone, but when it comes to reviews it's nice to know we're pleasing some x

  20. Suzie, as usual, you know what to say and how to say them. Very good read.


  21. And what a lovely thing to say yourself, Pam.

    Glad you enjoyed the post x