Thursday, 13 September 2012

How To Find A Good Book – Ask A Blogger

Over the past few weeks the press and internet have been full of stories of dodgy goings-on in the frantic world of “buy-my-book”. There was the scandal of 5 star reviews being bought on Amazon and that of well-known authors setting up bogus Amazon accounts in order to give themselves glowing 5-star reviews and (worse to my mind) vicious 1-star reviews to their rivals.

Too many people have as a result thrown the baby out with the bathwater, saying that you cannot trust the free-for-all of the internet and you should stick to traditional print reviews by professional reviewers. But how many books would you discover that way? I have a women’s fiction newspaper in which I pick up the best articles and reviews from across the web and I therefore monitor the major newspaper sites. What I have found is that they all review the same books.

How is this? Is it because the publishers only promote a very limited number? Is it that the reviewers act as a cabal? Is it that newspapers only review books by “established” authors? And dare I say it – does money exchange hands, just as it does to ensure that a book ends up on major booksellers’ three for the price of two tables or even just prominently displayed on the shelves? I’ve no idea, but what is certain is that the majority of books (and I am talking about traditionally published books as well as indies) never get reviewed by these professional reviewers.

What is worse is that the newspapers tend to review only literary fiction and not genre fiction. This of course has an implication for women’s books, which can be dismissed as chick-lit, romance or just women’s fiction. No matter that romance outstrips literary fiction and all the other genres in terms of sales.

Where then can you turn for reviews you can trust? Where can an author go for reviews? The answer is I believe the burgeoning phenomenon of the book blogs. Until I published my first book only six months ago I had only been slightly aware of the wonderful, selfless world of the book blogger. The proponents of the traditional professional reviewers would pooh-pooh the amateur book bloggers (and have done so in various comments I have seen). But they are wrong to do so. Yes, many, but not all, book bloggers have no qualifications (such as English literature degrees), nor do some professional reviewers for that matter. But what book bloggers do have is a love of books. They write reviews in order to share what they have read with you. And some of them clearly do nothing else than read and review. I have a magic realism review site and I just about manage a book a week.
How do you know which book bloggers to trust? Simple – look at their reviews. Have they liked the same books as you and better still for the same reason? Do they provide you with the sort of review you need to make a decision? If the answer to these questions is yes, then start following the blog.
But how do you find the right blogs in the first place? You have a number of options:
This post is part of the Celebrating Bloggers Blog Hop organised by Terri Guiliano Long.


Terri Giuliano Long said...

What a great post, Zoe! You're absolutely right in everything you say, particularly about not throwing the baby out with the bath water. As an author, bloggers have given me more of a voice than I could even have dreamed and I will be eternally grateful for that.

Thank you so much for taking part in Celebrating Bloggers!
My best,

David M. Brown said...

Great post, Zoe.

The recent controversies have cast a shadow over the writing world but I do believe in the sincerity of book bloggers and will always value them for their amazing support.