On another option for reviewing books …

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity of a 3-hour-long drive to an event with a Canadian author I’ve known for decades (but who will remain nameless here) during which we discussed many issues to do with promoting authors, publishing, and finding readers for books in general.

This particular author is a voracious reader and does write many in-depth reviews of books for newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad. For which she is paid by the magazines and newspapers. She is also a tireless champion for authors whose work she truly believes in, and constantly helps those she deems to be deserving to get a leg up in the business. For which she is not paid. She does so because she has always been a contributing member to this writing community.

What we discussed for the most part was the dwindling number of places where readers can turn to find a good, honest review of new books, and where authors can expect to receive an even-handed opinion that will, hopefully, lead to attracting new readers. She was more concerned with finding sites that posted legitimate reviews for all books and authors than finding places where she would be paid to write reviews. That’s where she was coming from. And it was the same direction I was approaching the issue – to find sites dedicated to reviewing, and bringing to our attention, good books.

We tossed around the idea of me developing a website that solely reviewed books … and then we arrived at our destination. I haven’t discussed this idea any further with her since that time.

I did, however, create the site Reading Recommendations in Nov. 2013, with this earlier conversation still lingering in my mind. I wasn’t interested in reading and reviewing books myself, but I did want to promote authors who I felt deserved international attention that this site has since provided them. They don’t pay me for this exposure* and, while I don’t review the books myself (or, at least not all of them), the authors are asked to provide links to promotion sites so that my readers may read reviews of these books in addition to my promotion. This site has worked well and I have promoted more than 250 authors of various nationalities, both traditionally and self-published, writing in every genre, format, and for all age groups. I don’t intend to change the format of Reading Recommendations now. Why fix what ain’t broke?

I’ve been giving a great deal of thought though to the problem of authors receiving legitimate reviews for their work, especially in light of what’s been going on lately with reviews posted to online sales sites and book listing services. And I’ve been thinking about the conversation I had several years ago with my friend. What if I were to set up another sister-site to RR that focuses only on reviews from readers of the books I promote? There would be no anonymity allowed and any connection to the author, including having received a free copy for review, would need to be divulged. In all fairness, I would like readers to know exactly where the reviewer is coming from – no star ratings, no negative reviews, just a good discussion as to why they enjoyed and now recommend that particular book. Reviews may be lengthy, if the reviewer feels they have a lot to say about a book, but will preferably be short and sweet, with no spoilers included, and no personal comments made about the author. Since I will be editing these reviews before posting them to the site, I can delete any trolls who try to spoil this party. (Oh, the power!) It is my hope that readers who normally wouldn’t leave a review on one of those other sites will consider writing something, however brief it may be, to let other readers know they enjoyed a book by one of the authors I’ve promoted on Reading Recommendations. Because, as I’ve said before, If you like a book, tell a friend … and we’re all friends here, right?

I will also link back to the original promotion on Reading Recommendations for each author who is reviewed on this new site. And I will create a list of other review sites (and there are many out there) that provide thoughtful, intelligent reviews for all books.

So, what do you think? Is this a good idea? Will you write reviews to be posted to this site? But, more importantly, as a reader – will you read and take note of reviews on a site like this? Reviewers, this will give you the opportunity to share your passion about particular authors and books with my readers. Readers, this will give you an idea of new books and authors you could be reading.

Would you be interested in providing reviews for this site? Are you interested in reading reviews on a site such as I’ve described? Please post your comments, yay or nay, below. I’m all eyes!

*The authors are asked, in lieu of payment, to promote the site, me, and my books in return – an agreement which has worked to a certain, only middling, extent, I’m sorry to say …

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27 responses

  1. Susan, you always write so thoughtfully and generously. A good idea and if guidelines are provided it would be a terrific place/opportunity for some new people who read a lot to get a start in real writing. (I am seldom reading for fun or anything current–all work-related research so it takes me forever to finish a new novel! Not a reviewer for you but a big-time supporter of you and your enthusiasm. You are undaunted!

    1. Thank you, Linda! You have always been such a huge support to me, and I will forever remain your Buckaroo Sidekick!

  2. I really detest the idea of buying reviews, however, something confuses me about this new dislike of handing out copies of a book. It’s been my understanding for years that old print reviewers expected a copy of a book, in order to review it. It was the SOP of the reviewer. And it was understood that you sent that hardback with the full knowledge that you may be savaged in the press come sunday. What happened to that standard? Money for reviews is crap, but books for reviews, that’s old school.

    1. Selling reviews has become a thing lately with which I also don’t agree. Even some formerly acceptable review sites are charging for reviews and they’ve lost their credibility by doing so, in my eyes. As you say, it used to be, and still is, the practice to send an advance reading copy (ARC) to a reviewer (or review editor) who then writes the review, but is under no obligation to write a review that praises the book. Those reviewers were often paid by the magazine or newspaper they wrote for (this is how my friend and many other authors are paid for the reviews they write – it’s a way to supplement the author’s income, writing reviews for book sections of newspapers), but never by the author or publisher. A new business has come to light recently of “publicists” who write reviews for self-published authors they can then send out to unsuspecting review sites. These are NOT reviews, but puff pieces, and readers are often duped into believing these are legetimate. So like you, Jolie, I believe paying for reviews is wrong (and no different really than the payolla scandal in the 50s when record companies were caught paying DJs to play their songs on radio stations). The benefit of the digital age is that many reviewers will accept an eBook or a PDF file rather than expect an expensive print copy.

      But I agree with you – paying a reviewer directly for reviews is just plain wrong. What I hope to do here is present reviews written by readers who genuinely love a book and want to share their enjoyment with other readers. That’s all.

      1. I hope it works for all our sakes. πŸ™‚ As a reader, I’ve stopped even reading them(reviews), and, as an author, I’m stumped on this new system where anything goes. .

  3. I don’t review on my blog anymore because it’s hard to keep up with all the requests from other authors. The only time I review on my blog is if the book is really special. I think a review blog like you’re talking about would be unique and I think it’s a great idea! I would to help out any way I can. I can’t promise that I’ll be able to contribute a lot of reviews, but I will reblog and promote every feature on your blog. You have my word on that.

    1. Thanks, Tricia, for your continuing support! I think we can definitely make this a community effort – and it will work!

  4. Reblogged this on Reading Recommendations and commented:

    Announcing the birth of a new sibling blog for Reading Recommendations! Read all about it here on my main blog …

  5. As an author, I find that any review that appears on Amazon and, increasingly, on GoodReads is a ‘good’ review in the vein of all publicity is good publicity. I applaud what you’re attempting to do in theory but the reality for authors is that when people read reviews at all, it’s when they’re pursuing a site they intend to purchase on, like Amazon, or when they’re pursuing a site like GoodReads that then links out to the major purchasing sites. With a new site, you’d have a hard time gaining any sort of volume of books and/or reviewers. Roughly one in 500 readers bothers to write a review. You’re also going to have an uphill battle to gain any sort of reader traction for the site.

    I ran a book review site in one particular genre and all of its sub-genres for nearly three years. I read most of the books myself and I tried to post 3-5 times a week. I also had guest posters/reviewers from time to time. After all of that time, working primarily alone, I reviewed nearly 500 books in the genre. I averaged 30-50 unique visitors on days when I didn’t post and between 100-180 on days when I did. Of course, I did no advertising…there wasn’t time. It took three years to build to those numbers.

    I’m not trying to discourage you at all, I’m just trying to show you what you’re up against. It’s not going to be easy but it will be very time consuming.

    1. Thanks, Anne, for commenting and telling us of your own experience. What you say doesn’t discourage me in the least (and I can hear Betty Jane Hegerat now, saying … and you don’t know Susan!) I was a publishers’ rep and bookseller for many years and now I am a self-published author who has many author-and-reader-friends I’ve attracted throughout the years. I definitely know the difficulties involved in finding readers. But I’m not doing this to sell books so much as to offer a service to readers of all my blogs, and the authors I promote, that allows fans to write a review in a place where they don’t feel threatened by trolls or the negative ninnies who seem to congregate on many online forums. Nor will their reviews suddenly disappear, because an algorithm has decided they may be just a little too friendly with the author. These are people who still want to let the world know when they’ve read a great book. And help the authors get a bit more promotion.

      I’ve already had offers, from several friends, to contribute reviews to this site. It may start off small, as RR did, but I have no doubt that contributions will be steady. Plus, I’ll be linking to the authors’ RR promotions which will give readers links to where books may be purchased. If readers are so moved by a review that they want to then purchase the book, the information will be available to them.

      I hope this will become a go-to place for anyone looking for a quick tip on that next read. And I also hope reviewers will want to rave about their most recent great read.

      I’m not a numbers person (meaning I don’t pay attention to them as an indication of any success), so even if this site only attracts a few loyal readers and reviewers I’ll be happy. But as I said earlier, I’m the eternal optimist and believe that many more will find this site through all my connections I have in the business. And that it will eventually provide a valuable service to authors and readers alike.

  6. I think it’s worth a shot and only time will tell if it’s effective. In my opinion, thoughtful reviews are useful tools for both reader and writer. Though I no longer rate or review every book I read, I’m happy to review and promote good work by supportive authors.

    1. Thank you, JP! As an author who has already supported others promoted on RR, and who has also introduced readers to another author in the Authors Recommending Authors section, I absolutely appreciate your support with and belief in this new blog!

  7. I am particularly interested in Canadian books because I have noted recently that Chapters has not been giving them their due. New titles from first rate writers are not on the front shelves. Their promo material mentions few. They do not do much for local writers of talent. I am also sad that the major Canadian newspapers are skimping on book info and book reviews. Yet recently, when i asked people through my blog, (Literary Thunder Bay), what they were reading, I found many were reading Can Lit. I usually buy Canadian hard cover when I can . I will do short reviews. just get me started.

    1. Thanks, Joan! While I do promote many Canadian authors, because so many of them are personal friends, the focus of Reading Recommendations is definitely international in scope. This is a good thing, I believe, because it offers everyone I promote -Canadian and otherwise, the whole world as a possible marketplace. And that’s also good for the international readers I hope to attract.

  8. A good idea I think. In addition maybe on the blog somewhere you could describe what makes a good review so that reviewers know what it is they should refer to.

    1. I hope we can make this more of a non-structured, “I really love this book, because” type of review site rather than holding reviewers to a set format. That policy is for those who have been afraid to write a review or think they are inadequate. Besides, I’ll be curating and editing everything posted to the site, so there will be no random drive-by postings or reviews that aren’t appropriate. I’ll definitely discuss reviews with the reviewer before posting them, just so the reviewer knows why I might need to edit or ask them to write more of an explanation.

      1. Then let me know when your site is up and running and I can contribute – I read quite a bit when I have no deadlines to reach πŸ™‚

      2. Thank you, Colline! And in the meantime,please have a look through the list of authors I’ve promoted on Reading Recommendations, as they are the authors I’d like to have reviewed on this site.

  9. To be honest, I’m not so sure readers pay attention to reviews any more, do they? Personally, I’m all for it, and appreciate what you are doing for authors, but would readers go specifically to a site just to read reviews… I’m not sure.

    1. I don’t think readers read reviews on those other sites (I certainly don’t) but hope I have enough readers of RR already, or can attract more, who are interested in reading someone else’s opinion – an opinion they can trust – about authors I’ve already featured. And, even if only a few readers are attracted by this new site and make reading decisions based on these reviews, that’s something to grow on as more readers share the link to the site and want to rave about their favourite books as well. I’m eternally optimistic that sites like this, and RR, will further promote authors and good books to readers who appreciate them.

      1. Yes, and you certainly work hard to make that happen! I wish you every success with this new venture. Ali

      2. Thanks for your support, Ali!

  10. I like the idea, but I question how many reviews you would get. I’m struggling to write free reviews right now on my blog (time) and have stopped accepting requests for free ones. Partly because they invariably don’t fit in with what my readers want.

    If other people are willing to buy books from your Reading Recommendations and commit to writing reviews, then it would be good. Or, would your recommended authors provide free review copies, as you mention that? And, would you be providing guidelines for the reviews?

    So although I couldn’t commit to writing, I would read. I do enjoy a good review. So long as – they don’t tell the story πŸ˜‰

    1. I’m not sure I will receive a lot of reviews, but I wanted to provide a venue for those who do wish to tell other readers about a great book yet don’t normally write reviews on those other sites, or have a blog themselves. I will link to you, roughseas, as a reviewer of books, when the time comes.

  11. Yay – but where to you find the time? I have a personal policy to only write reviews for a book I like. I never post a negative review for two reasons.
    1. Just because I don’t like a book, doesn’t mean others won’t and who am I to take away from that experience.
    2. The first time I picked up the Historian I couldn’t get through the first chapter. A year later it picked up because I had nothing better to read and I loved it. I couldn’t put it down. So what if I’d posted a negative review and I would have been so wrong?
    I would follow your site to read reviews. As an author, I think I can learn a lot from reviews and find something interesting to read.
    I’d be happy to contribute from time to time but am a little nervous about whether I’m qualified.
    Thanks for being so supportive of writers and readers.

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