Book Reviews and Indie Writers

This is probably going to turn into a massive mistake that will take over my life and create an unrecoverable meltdown, but here goes. I’ve been thinking, for quite a while now, about the need for a blog that reviews self-published ebooks, and nothing but self-published ebooks. I even made a few notes about what would be involved. Naturally, a review blog can’t survive on the output of just one reviewer, especially if it’s someone as scattered and prone to “moods” as I am. So, the site would require multiple reviewers, who are also self-published authors.

Basically, I’m saying screw the requirement that reviewers have to be professionals. What they have to be is intelligent, literate, and perceptive. Also honest. I’m also saying screw the  sites that base ratings and reviews on how books appeal to the reviewers on an emotional level, but ignore petty details like editing, and writing quality.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that, as a self-published writer and an avid reader, quality is one of my primary concerns. Which means an automatic default to the question of how people are to find quality writing. See my posts, Where is the Renaissance?  and How to Encourage a Renaissance? More important, the question, for me, is what can I do to encourage, maybe not a renaissance, but a way to help good writers rise above the slush pile. Which, despite the desperate mantra that quality will always find a way to the top, is damned difficult, if not impossible.

What spurred me to take action was reading a blog post by Hugh Howey, author of an ongoing series: Wool. I’ve only read Wool 1 so far, thanks to the way the Kindle desktop app mutilates Wool 2 every time I try to download it, but this is a guy who’s winning a fan base built on the quality of his writing. But he can’t get reviewed. Read One Indie Disadvantage and if you’re a self-published writer, you’ll be nodding your head.

Now to the nitty gritty. I’m not going to give out any details here, though I’ve worked out some of them. The first thing I need to know, before I even set up a blog, is whether there are self-published writers willing to do reviews for a site like this. I would need at least three or four reviewers, to start with. There would be no minimum number of reviews required, but I’d hope for at least one a month. I would vet all reviews, mostly for editing and to make sure the necessary information about the book was included. A template might be a good idea. Reviewers would be able to include links (what kinds and how many, to be decided) and a short bio at the end of every review. They would also be able to suggest books they know about and would like to review.

To start with, only fiction will be reviewed, and authors can submit, following the requirements I’ve started developing. I have a short list of genres I won’t be including, mostly because they’re the ones most likely to be crude amateur work, because they’re the ones that are crowding out practically everything else, and because they’re already being reviewed. So, if you want to review romance, erotica, or anything to do with zombies, vampires, shifters, or other paranormal stories, or sword and sorcery, magic, elves, etc., this won’t be the site for you.

Discussion? Suggestions? Offers to join a quixotic project?

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21 thoughts on “Book Reviews and Indie Writers

  1. This sounds like a great idea. I haven’t read any self-published work, honestly, and that’s partly because there is no coverage of it anywhere. I’ll definitely be looking forward to hearing more about this from you!

  2. That’s quite an undertaking, but one I’m sure is doable with some help. I’m not yet a published fiction author, so I’m out. But a link to this would look good on G+. 🙂

    1. Consider this a nudge, then. Get going on that novel. I haven’t defined self-published yet, but it could include work published on websites or the author’s blog.

      You are now my official go-to person for G+.

  3. Hey Catkin, thanks for joining in. There’s a good deal of coverage of self-published books, actually, but it’s so scattered, you have to haunt book review sites and blogs, all over the web. I don’t think there’s any way to centralize it, but for the kind of writing I’ve been talking about, it would certainly help to have one dedicated review blog.

  4. Cat, I’m in the process of doing an independent publish, so I may not qualify, but I am an avid reader and have things to say about what I find on the self-pub shelves.

    I’m a little concerned with magic and Sword and Sorcery books being left out (I fully understand an aversion to Werewolves, Vampires and their ilk), but paranormal fiction and fantasy are mainstays with me. I’d like to participate, but would feel odd about not being able to review books that are of a style I read. (Among others.)

    Also, are you aware of “Awesome Indies”? (http://awesomeindies.wordpress.com/) a friend of mine who is doing something similar.

    I think the idea is terrific, and fully support it… just a little concerned about… well, you know…

  5. Rik, yes, I’ve seen Awesome Indies. But I’m trying to get away from the idea that only (or mostly) professionals are qualified to write reviews. And I did give my reasons for excluding several genres, which has nothing to do with whether I do or don’t read them myself. As I said, they’re being well-covered elsewhere. There’s also the danger of the site being swamped with submissions. I’d like to be able to notify authors that their books either have or haven’t been accepted for review, and that would be impossible if there wasn’t some way to control the submissions. I’ve seen a lot of complaints that authors wait for months to be reviewed or even to be notified, and this is one way to cut down on that problem.

  6. This sounds an interesting venture; giving quality indie writers a chance to get noticed in the midst of dross wpuld be helpful for both writers and readers. I’d be happy to contribute the odd review, if you like.

    1. Thanks, Clodia. I’m starting a list of possible reviewers and will contact everyone when I’ve made some progress. Decided that people might be more willing to volunteer when they know there’s an actual site in progress, so I’ll be working on it.

  7. “This is probably going to turn into a massive mistake that will take over my life and create an unrecoverable meltdown, but” …feel free to contact me as one of your potential reviewers when you get to that point. I still need to consider whether my family would toss me out of the house if I tell them I’m taking on yet another project, but the idea is really intriguing. I don’t know if you’ll have a section for literary fiction but that’s my “genre” (if it can be called such, per Jane Friedman’s recent post on the subject). Looking forward to hearing more!

    1. Yes, indeed. If any “genre” needs a helping hand, it’s literary fiction. I’ve put your name on the list. I’d love to have help on the development of the site, but I know that most people have lives. If all you have time for is an occasional review, that’s fine.

      I don’t plan to set up sections or categories, but will depend on the authors’ own information, and whatever the reviewers want to add in the way of identifying genres.

  8. Great idea, Catana. I’m not a SP writer yet, but I will be in September 2013. Anyway, I’m happy to help. Couldn’t manage more than 1 a month though, as they’re all e books, aren’t they, and my eyes aren’t good (one cataract op over, another on the way in a year or so). I presently have a review up at: danielledevalera.wordpress.com of Michael Sala’s debut novel THE LAST THREAD (very literary), if you want to get some idea of what I’m like. He’s not a SP author, but the review would give you some idea. Actually, If you got some offers to review from reputable people who weren’t SP authors, It might be worthwhile considering them.

    1. I’ll add you to the list. I’d like reviewers to be pretty autonomous, but I plan to provide some guidelines, just in case there’s doubt about how to handle some books.

  9. I would agree that there is a need for this. I have reviewed some self published books but on the whole most books that come to me are through publishing houses. One self published author I would love see included is Dani Alexander. Her first book, Shattered Glass, was amazing. it would be great for the best of these authors to find a larger venue. Right now my reviews are up at my blog, GR and as a guest reviewer at JoyfullyJay.com.

  10. And, I would like to add to that, give some authors who are having trouble some positive crit and feedback, I didn’t mean to imply that only self published authors with good reviews should be included. *head desk*

    1. Not to worry, Melanie, I understood. I keep seeing reviews of Shattered Glass. Sounds interesting, but a few things in the sample put me off. Maybe . . . Your tits and orbs post really cracked me up.

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