The skills needed for writing good reviews are different than the skills needed for writing good fiction. That is not to say that some people can’t have both sets of skills, but rather than being good at one does not make one good at the other.
I am in a case in point. I am not good at writing reviews. My focus is too tight and my approach is too disorganized–I can give you a couple of thousand words on why, say, the motif of clown of avatar of disorder is the central theme of The Dark Knight without ever bothering to discuss the qualities of the film as a film. I tend to fixate on one part of a work–either positively or negatively–and dissect it in detail while ignoring everything else.
That’s not what a well-written review does. A well-written review tells potential readers a) the general level of production quality of the work and b) what audience is most likely to enjoy the work. To do that requires a level of objectivity that is really hard for me.
Good reviewers can read a story or watch a film and keep their heads, enjoy what they like, admire what is well done and, most importantly, be able to articulate what they experienced clearly and succinctly.
The best reviewers also have broad tastes and appreciate a wide range of styles, which I have a problem doing. I’m a very finicky reader. And there is a quality of charity that really good reviewers always seem to bring to even their negative reviews. (Again, this isn’t me. I am the Judge Dredd of literary criticism. Fortunately for the world in general I tend to share my more intolerant opinions only with my roommate, who ignores them.)
And then there is the issue of conflict of interest. I am a short fiction writer. Any market that I like well enough to buy is a market that I am also looking at as a place to sell my work. Readers seeing my name on a review would be justified in wondering if I was being honest, or trying to butter up to the publisher. To be honest, I’d be wondering that myself.
All of which is prologue to saying that, as an author, I have a strong interest in reviews, not only for publications in which my work appears, but indie short fiction markets in general. However, I don’t think that this interest would be best served by writing reviews myself, for the reasons stated above.
So what can I do to encourage and support fan reviewers? Those readers who love genre fiction and have the passion to share their thoughts on what they love, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I honestly don’t know. I can post links to fan review sites if people send them to me, and I can try to arrange ebook copies to be sent to fan reviewers (since I’m not the publisher on my work anymore, I can’t just promise them. But most publishers I’m working with will comp an ebook to a reviewer.)
Is there anything else I can do? This is a serious question, and I’d like to hear from any fans, not just of my work but of genre fiction in general, who write reviews. What would make you feel appreciated and make you want to keep going? How can I help you to increase the reach of your review blog? I started The Dark Corner Newsstand in part as a platform for indie reviewers, but I’m not sure how to use it to promote review sites.
What do you need that I can help you get? How can I show my appreciation for what you do? Is there a way we can work together to monetize review sites that won’t either open you up to charges of taking bribes or run afoul of Amazon/Big Media fraud spotting algorithms?
A healthy market requires three things–artists, publishers, and critics. I’m doing what I can to support indie authors and indie publishers. What can I do to support indie critics?
Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.
You would think there would be something legally acceptable, but I have no idea where to find it…
Step one: start a review site with two or three other critics. You each need to put out a review a week to have enough critical mass to register on the collective conscious.
Step two: do an exhaustive weekly link roundup that covers the sort of writing you’d like to see more of. Use pull quotes to highlight the best zingers. Leaven the roundup with particularly good examples of bad criticism for the lols.
Step three: after a year of this make a list of the top fifteen book bloggers. Invite them all to do a stint with you. If they can’t handle weekly posts, take them on either at monthly or biweekly rates.
Step four: after a year of this you should be getting a lot of attention from bibliophiles including some surprising heavy hitters. Ask them for guest posts!
Burnout is your biggest foe… but you can build a criticism site on par with Black Gate with this methodology. If you’re winsome enough you can count on your replenishing your ranks with a yearly “top book blogger” recruitment drive.
Note you can easily make enough spare change with something like Amazon Associates to pay for your reviewer copies– much easier than asking publishers for handouts. Never thought much about seriously attempting to monetize this sort of thing beyond that. Always thought there was something to be said for a strictly “for the love of it all” type amateur writing.
This is a good plan for reviewers, but how about an author who wants to support reviewers without being one himself?
Assuming there’s no real market value for this type of work… that’s basically it. (The for-profit and ideological spaces have little to no interest in honest reviews and free ranging discussion.)
Obviously, someone of your caliber linking to or commenting on and/or pitching in to help a site with a guest post/series has a tremendous impact. Again, if it can’t really be monetized and the effort is (in a sense) intrinsically amateur (ie for the love of it)… then actively boosting the morale of the people involved is your best bet.
I think Jeffro has the right approach here, although I’d say go with 5 – 7 reviewers, so that readers got into the habit of checking the site every day (or at least every weekday) for new stuff.
I think you’d also need some consistency as to length of reviews, tone, maybe even tastes to some degree. You wouldn’t want Monday’s reviewer saying “ugh, there’s a bunch of stupid romance in this one” and Tuesday’s reviewer praising a similar book for its wonderful romance.
Hello Misha, thank you on behalf of book bloggers for wanting to reach out and build a connection. I run a small team of reviewers and we are always looking to build links between readers and writers.
I would say, pick one or two social media sites. One where you hope to find your current reading audience and another one where you might meet new readers to your genre.Then focus on interaction.
I find twitter works for me, so I’ll speak about that here.
For instance make several small lists of book bloggers on twitter, then share one ot two tweets per blogger daily. Perhaps rotate your lists so that you do a few a day, say spending two 15 mins twitter sharing sections a day.
Then start to comment or interact with some book bloggers, either on their social media site or better still, reading their reviews and sharing those with your audience.
Seek out things like twitter chat sessions and join one, one day. See how it goes, they can be fun and show you as human and approachable.
Weekly, write and share links to interesting posts from book bloggers, tag them in your social media share, to build two way support. Most book bloggers write more than just reviews, so you should be able to find a good variety of posts.
Then you can sprinkle your interaction with an offer of a free copy of one of your books for review, or run a competiton or giveaway. Or collaborate with a group of authors in your genre and try all the above. This might share out the workload, giving you more time to focus on writing. Plus it opens up readers to more than one author. It can be a win, win all around.
Mainly be consistant. Try not to spend six months in a writing cave, then a week of intense social media, then disappear again. A genuine interest needs to shine through.
Hope this helps.
It does. Would you say then that I can do the most good by retweeting/reposting links to book bloggers with an eye towards helping them build their regular readership?
It would work for me, then befriend them and start chatting on social media, it doesn’t have to be much, but it makes you human and then see where it takes you.
Social media needs to be about being social and it works best when shared.
I think that it’s important that writers develop professional relationships with book bloggers, and that starts with treating them as professional colleagues, just as I try to always treat other authors and publishers professionally. Any hints in that direction?
I’d call that a good approach, especially as more people might begin to follow you as a source of links to interesting reviews.
I also don’t consider myself a good reviewer, because I just spit out whatever (good or bad) gave me a gut reaction, I don’t try to analyze every element of a story. Still, a moderate number of people follow me and seem to enjoy reading what I write. Maybe I’m the comedy-relief sidekick of book reviewing rather than the superhero, but I’ll take it.
I like your reviews, and I always read them.
Thank you, you have provided me some support.
As someone who is fan, doesn’t write fiction, but does have some non-fiction writing skills, I did not know how to write a review. This gives me some clues to work on.