Sunoasis continues its long climb up to respectability.
I was contacted by a publicist for the Carnegie Mellon University
Press asking if I would review two new books of fiction they
are publishing. If Sunoasis has that much credibility with a decent
university I couldn't say anything but yes.
Some of those reviews are here if you're interested.
Reviewing is both an intelligent act and one useful in the marketing
side of the writing business. The writer is a reviewer but there
comes a time when she wants to be reviewed.
The reviewers job is
simply to experience the work as best she can and then write
honestly about what "comes up." Do that fairly, honestly, with intelligence, and you can
be a decent reviewer.
Reviewing often has a reputation as being a slightly corrupt
enterprise, especially in old literary cultures like Great Britain.
But in America, where everyone is slightly naive
and democratic, the reviews tend to be earnest and sincere.
In America the attitude is, "will this book make me do what I want
to do better?"
There is hardly any opinion about the literary merits of
Just as in writing the admonition is to read and read more, so too
with reviewing it is necessary to read that which fascinates you
and then go review books written on subjects that fascinate.
Editors run reviews because they see it as part of the journalistic
function to separate the wheat from the chaff. The editor also knows
that people hate making decisions and want other people to do it for
According to Scott Pack, writing in the Bookseller, "Book reviews should
inspire reading. They should excite, stimulate, agitate and empower
readers to discover new books and avoid bad ones. They should turn you
on to undiscovered authors, prompt you into finally reading the writer
you have never quite got round to, and make you wonder at the world of
delights that remain unread."
Who needs book reviews? How about academics, students, consumers,
people who read for pleasure, parents, professionals in technical
arenas, and certainly librarians.
First law of the reviewer: "Trust the tale not the tale-teller."
Book reviewing is one of the keystones that holds the
literary system together. It necessitates a kind of rare
honesty. After reading a reviewer do a hatchet job on some
poor guy's work you think more about what is wrong with
the reviewer than with the work under review.
>>>>>>>Y e a h, b u t i s n ' t b o o k r e v i e w i n g d e a d?<<<<<
In the past reviewers have made a decent living in large-circulation
publications such as newspapers and magazines. As with many other aspects of the literary system it is
being challenged by the internet.
"Book criticism is an increasingly endangered beat in a
chain-dominated newspaper industry," says Kevin Berger of
Slate. "Its pleasures are too quirky and cerebral to fit newspapers'
Reviewing, in my opinion, is a professional obligation. Poets should
review poets, novelists should review novelists, journalists
should review books that journalists write. Lawyers should
review books written by lawyers, school superintendents should
review books by school superintendents and down the line.
In doing so the professional or knowledgeable amateur
undercuts the vapid press release put out by pure marketing
types that undermines the credibility
of language. Book reviews build up a credible
foundation that is useful to many types of people.
We all know the internet is a great catalyst for change. It
has two large impacts on book reviewing. One is the tsunami
of information that people can tap into and get substantial
opinions about books, beliefs, ballet and everything else. Why
one opinion about a book? Why not a dozen from both known and
And people chat on the beast. They discuss and recommend.
If you are in a community of chatters a recommendation can
sometimes be more potent than a review.
Damian Horner, a freelance marketing consultant, has termed it
a new "recommendation model." He points out the arrival of
focus groups, bloggers, and reading groups coming in to
play a role in the new reviewing game.
Look no further than that strange, awesome beast Amazon.com,
which quickly seized on the advantages of the Net by
allowing readers to post reviews of books. This practice has
had its share of scandals. And as a guy who buys books from
Amazon I can attest to how powerful a real good or a real
bad review plays on the decision to buy. Reviews are now
the property of all the communities on the internet and go
far beyond specific publications.
Reviews are not going away.
Resources to consult:
Reviews of Books runs original reviews and links to reviews of
specific books from other review sites.
This is an extensive resource into publications that review books.
I recommend it!
>>>>>>>> T h e W r i t e r - R e v i e w e d<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
Despite changes don't write off the review game as irrelevant.
There are plenty of powerful publications that wield clout with
their readers that include books-buyers from Barnes and Noble,
Borders and libraries.
A quintessential goal for the writer is to get her book reviewed!
A review will vault your book over thousands of others that
go unreviewed. It is a central part of the marketing plan.
I have proven that an editor of a small publication is open to
reviewing books close to the editorial intent of the
The book-review game can be complicated. Here are some tips
on building your odds of success in this area. I'm not the expert
but I have consulted a few. They are credited at the end.
S o m e E a s y T i p s F r o m T h o s e W h o K n o w
- Start early. Put it on the planning list. If you have an in-
house publicist make sure you stay on top of where she is
trying to get the book reviewed. Start thinking about reviewers
six-months before the book is published.
- Develop a solid list of reviewers and especially look to see
if your book has a unique audience and connect to all
publications that share that audience.
- Don't stop looking for reviewers. Keep assuming that your work
hasn't found all its potential audience.
- Don't limit yourself to the traditional print-review sources.
Consider radio and television shows and Internet review sites
with their more flexible lead times.
- You can't force anything. Think small, think niche.
- Include all personal information plus the publication date
for the book in a cover letter or as part of a media kit.
- Get any decent comments from the advance copy reviews? Use
them in all other post-pub reviews.
- Request a clipping of the review from the reviewer.
- Don't send a reviewer a shabby copy. Get the production value
to, at least, normal standards for the book industry.
- Make sure your book fits the format norms for the market
segment. For example, most general fiction reviews are for hard
cover only. So, if you have a trade paper original it may hamper
your ability to be reviewed.
"The Book-Review Game" by Bharti Kirchner in Writer Magazine,
"The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing" by Tom and Marilyn Ross
Writer's Digest Book, pp. 225-228
[ CODA ]
David Sexton, in The Evening Standard (U.K.), makes
the point that, "in private life, nobody sane reads all books through."
According to Sexton, when Dr. Samuel Johnson was given a book to read
by a clergyman he is alleged to have said, "A book may be good for
nothing; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing; are
we to read it all through?"
The book reviewer has the obligation, however, to do the deed
on behalf of the reading public who remain short on time and/or
So obey the simple rule of Evelyn Waugh and never review a book you
didn't actually read!
For those new to the Net or overwhelmed by the nature of the
online job market I suggest you look at the Cyber Search Tutorial.There
are more job boards and classifieds from metro newspapers.