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The Times
  • The Readers’ Writers: Reviewing the reviewers

  • Many of us readers take note of reviews from major sources such as the New York Times and USA Today. Times have changed and continue to change. While the Internet has allowed for a new generation of independent (indie) publishers, it has also opened the door to individuals, such as multi award-winning suspense author John ...
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  • Many of us readers take note of reviews from major sources such as the New York Times and USA Today. Times have changed and continue to change. While the Internet has allowed for a new generation of independent (indie) publishers, it has also opened the door to individuals, such as multi award-winning suspense author John L Betcher, who have elected to publish their work themselves. Literally, thousands of new books become available to readers each and every month. Obviously, a need arose for a platform by which these authors’ work could be considered.
    Some readers hold to the mistaken belief authors turn to indie publishers or self-publishing because the traditional major publishers aren’t interested and these books are somehow substandard. While that certainly is true in some cases, the fact is, by embracing that myth, readers are missing out on a lot of extremely good books such as “Staff Monkeys: A Stockbroker’s Journey Through the Global War on Terror,” by Lt. Colonel Peter Clark, published by indie press Patriot Media Inc. The book once received a Pulitzer Prize nomination.
    To help readers sort through the massive influx of books, a new breed of reviewer has risen to the challenge. These unpaid reviewers set up websites and blogs to share their opinion of the books they read, for no other reason than their love of reading. Independently, these reviewers have created a united means of recognizing books not found in the window displays of bookstores.
    To better understand why these readers have engaged in this pursuit, I contacted three (there are hundreds of reviewers – these three are merely a sampling) very different reviewers and asked each the same questions (due to space limits, I’m only showing one Q&A here).
    First up, Bobby D Whitney of BookWenches Reviews – an amalgamation of three women who read anything and everything that strikes their fancy. www.bookwenches.com
    Q. What prompted you to switch from casual reader to reviewer?
    A. I’m going to have to blame my review partner, Teagan, for that one. Once we found out that we shared the same taste in reading material, she and I began to meet at Starbucks on Saturday mornings just to talk about the books we were reading. At the time, Teagan was reviewing for a big website, and she lured me over there with the promise of free books. Although I enjoyed the creative challenge of writing the reviews, the rules and politics of that big review group were a little stifling, so half a year later, we were dreaming up BookWenches.
    In a way, I feel like a matchmaker, hooking up readers and writers. We offer readers the opportunity to discover new books, authors, and publishers and perhaps even win a free book on occasion. Through interviews and guest blogs, we give writers the chance to promote themselves and to shine in front of potential readers. Everybody wins, and I find that quite satisfying.
    Page 2 of 3 - Next, Tom Webb of A Bear on Books, reviewer of the fastest-rising genre in today’s publishing world, same sex relationships. www.tom-webb.blogspot.com
    Q. What makes you decide to read and review a book?
    A. For me, I separate the two things.
    First of all, I read a lot. I probably read (and I am almost ashamed to say this) 50 to 60 short stories, novellas and full-length novels a month. And review maybe one in four. I get recommendations from other readers, check out new releases on Amazon almost every day, and read a few other blogs for books that sound interesting. I've also started getting some publishers who send me lists of new releases, and have started getting contacted by some writers directly asking me to read their works. I'm proud to have been contacted by and reviewed a wonderful gay deaf poet, and a man who lost his partner to AIDS, and who published the notes he wrote to him over the years as a tribute.
    My one condition with a writer or publisher who contacts me is that I am under no obligation to review anything they might send. Well, and that I won't review it if I don't like it. I will let the writer know, privately, what didn't work for me but I will never talk about it with anyone else. My feelings are, if a writer invested their blood, sweat and tears in a book, I owe it to them to not only be honest, but to respect the effort.
    Once I read it, something has to stand out about the book. I focus on three things – storyline, characters and voice. The story has to be coherent and grab me. The characters have to make sense and be well-developed. And the voice – it's the most esoteric thing for me, I think. It's that “it factor” that separates a good writer from a great one – how the writer approaches and tells the story.
    And lastly, Dawn Roberto, founder of Love Romances Cafe. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/loveromancescafe
    Q. What prompted you to switch from casual reader to reviewer?
    A. I actually stumbled onto it by chance really. I liked letting people know if I read a really awesome, inspiring or heartfelt book and recommended several to friends. When I saw some of review quotes on some stories I was looking into trying, I clicked on a link and BAM! I was hooked. There was this whole world of reviewing I never knew about. I try to give what worked or didn’t work with me in a book I review. I try to give a honest opinion in my review and hope that just because a certain book may not work for me, doesn’t mean you may not like it.
    Page 3 of 3 - DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net
     

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