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?