Anyone can be a book reviewer, everyone knows that. Anyone can put their opinion on Amazon and GoodReads.
There’s a difference, however, when you review with purpose. The purpose of the Underground is to help emerging authors, to bridge a gap between traditional and non-traditional publishing.
The most difficult part when I review a book is to separate myself from being an author and reviewing a peer. One of the most difficult reviews I’ve done is when the subject matter went against my core values. Yet, I had to come out of who I am and honestly review how the book was written, the concept, character development and how the plot advanced. I gave it a five star rating. To put my values aside is what I feel a good reviewer has to do if their opinion is to be valued.
As one of the authors of a book I reviewed told me, anything less than a five star review is a slap in the face. Why? Because there are tons of books rated with five-star reviews all over the net. But who reviewed those books? A friend of the author? A relative perhaps?
My quest has changed. I no longer pat the book on the cover and say to myself, I can help this author. I am on the other side of the court that I hope will enable the reader to find the way through a maze of books to one that they will enjoy. And instead of the author thanking me, perhaps the reader will thank-me for an honest, insightful review.
Reviewing for me used to be easy. Now everything has changed.
As of the first of August I have joined the throng of self-published writers clamoring for reviews. Every book on promotion tells authors like me to seek out reviews. It's how you build an audience, how you draw people on Amazon, how you do anything but flounder and die. I know that to be true. When I see a book on Amazon with fifty reviews and one with two I buy the one with fifty. Common sense, right?
What the how-to books don't tell you is every reviewer in the world is flooded with requests just like mine everyday. As a reviewer I see it. I get two requests a day. That's 730 books a year and I get to pick twelve. Twelve! All those other people who have dreams just like mine get told no. It's depressing.
I hope that any reader that has been told no by one of us knows if we could we would read and support every single one of your books. We'd interview you and let you tell your story to the world. Even if you hear no, please know that in our heart's we are with you, the under-promoted writer. Keep on writing and just keep swimming.
I love meeting other writers. The sad fact is, though, writing is a solitary affair and I come across few writers in my day-to-day life. Over the past year, Underground Book Reviews has introduced me to an overwhelming number of writers and it has been exhilarating, exhausting and edifying all a once. While I love reading new books, my favorite part of reviewing is meeting the minds behind the magic. Every new publishing story is a fairytale, every piece of advice a nugget of wisdom. I want to cheer on every author I meet, encourage
them and tell them how great they are.
Sadly, I can't do this every time. Although I warn every author in advance that I can't promise a positive review, it doesn't make it any easier when I write a negative one. What amazes me is that every author has been thankful for my honesty, whether I recommended their book or not. I can't help but be inspired by the attitude of these new writers.
One day soon, I'll be seeking out reviewers like myself and asking for their brutal honesty. While I look forward to hearing unfiltered opinions from other book reviewers, I'm also bracing myself for the inevitable bad review. I can only hope that I will be able to receive criticism as graciously as the authors I have met through Underground Book Reviews.
The most difficult thing about being a reviewer is passing on a lot of great books. There are so many talented self-published authors with great novels that receive almost zero attention in the vast Amazonasphere. Are there a lot of bad books out there? Sure, but I focus on the ones with promise. I just wish I had time to review more. I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify what gets my attention as a reviewer for both reader submissions and those I choose from Amazon.
What makes me pass up a reader query? No synopsis, poor pitch, poor grammar in the pitch, no links to where to find the book, groveling and sucking up (I’m just a struggling writer like you and this is embarrassing), or anything else that appears amateur or poorly done.
What makes me pass up a book once I see on Amazon? No cover or really amateur looking cover (sorry, but I do judge a book by its cover), any formatting errors or anomalies that draw my attention, poorly written synopsis or no synopsis at all, being unable to “look inside” and a first page that is flat and passive. You have to grab me on page one or I move on. Here’s something that doesn’t influence me – the number of ratings on Amazon.
I want to read your book. I want to review your book. I’m on your side, so please make it easy on me. Thanks for visiting UBR.
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