Last week’s post on book reviewing postulated a few reasons authors seek reviews: audience exposure, influence readers to purchase, useful feedback, reader connections, data collection, endorsement by someone of note.
But what about readers? Beyond book recommendations, are readers looking for information, for perspective, for themes to consider, for insights on a topic, a location, or a time in history? A reviewer I know does one hour presentations on each book she reviews, lengthy discussions of the author’s background and writing history, the reason that author chose to write such a book, other works by the same author, a critique of structure, language, character development and so on.
And what about venue? Last week I mentioned a few sites with different attributes. What attributes matter to authors and readers? Based on the reading I’ve done, Let’s postulate a few:
- thoughtful reviews
- trustworthy information and perspectives
- opportunities for dialogue
- a sense of community
- breadth of reach or ability to aggregate a wide range of viewers
- clear delineation between content and advertising
- paid reviews versus unpaid
- lack of bias
- evaluation versus engagement
- range of books reviewed
- accessibility for readers
- open to authors not represented by the big publishers
- open to readers who wish to post reviews
- clarity of recommendation
Where is the sweet spot for authors and readers?
In a world of ‘free’ where expertise has less value, where every reader is a potential book reviewer, where there is little/no compensation for the well-written review, and where sites like Amazon use algorithms to make book recommendations, what are authors and readers supposed to do? Some say book reviews have become little more than publicity. Others suggest when critiquing media such as the New York Times Book Review, that “assigning well-known novelists to review the work of other well-known novelists—with obvious connections to each other, in the small, incestuous world of literary publishing—is problematic enough, but assigning writers within particular niches to those within the same niches is even worse.”
Well, friends, I don’t have the answer and furthermore, I suggest that there is no single answer. But my gut tells me that book bloggers both large and small, self-managed or posted on an aggregation site, will play an increasingly important role.