Yet another “career”
As I approach my seventh decade, I look at all the roles I’ve had in order to decide what I want to do right now. In every stage, every role, I’ve read. Voraciously. I wish GoodReads had existed back in the day–I know there are so many books I’ve forgotten. One of my favorite tees is one that says, “If I can’t take my book, I’m not going.”
What, then, can I contribute? I can add my voice to promote the small presses and the self-published authors. I believe that they serve our society better than multinational corporations and conglomerates with vertical, horizontal, and diagonal integration.
Small presses help diversify the voices published and present books that may not be as “commercial” as the widgets industry loves so. (Remember how every publisher wanted to publish magic books when Harry Potter went crazy? As though it was the magic itself that made them so popular?)
I believe in the indie author movement. It’s a way for books that may have been too risky for a conventional publisher to take on, and a way for authors to have more control over their art. However, because there are no editors, no gatekeepers, it’s sometimes hard to sort through it all.
So this is my way to help. I actively search out indie books in the fiction genres I read most: fantasy, historical, and mystery (of the cozy/traditional sort) to review. Some reviewed books I read for free through the public library or download as a promotion, some I buy, and some are given to me as advance review copies.
The only way I may possibly profit from a review is through affiliate links. Due to Amazon’s lock on self-published ebooks, some must go there as it’s the only place the books are available. I feel like a hypocrite for using it, but there you go. Actively looking for alternatives.
My goal is to identify and promote good, solid writing that is adequately produced. I won’t review books on here that don’t meet my particular definitions for those elements–if the book is poorly written or so badly edited that it’s distracting, or otherwise is amateurish, it won’t be a full feature post on my site. Because receipt of advance review copies requires that I review them, I’ll do it on other sites as required by the particular agreement, but I won’t feature them here.
I also read Big 5 and big indies books to establish a norm. (I guess “big indies” is better than “big small presses”; I’ll call them the Other Guys from here on out.)
If you haven’t heard of norming, it’s basically a way of establishing an internal sense of what a standard answer is. In universities, it can be used so that freshman are not held to the standard that their professors were at the end of their time on the other side of the desk.
You do that by continuing to sample what’s appropriate for the context. As a result, I read at least one “regular” book for every indie. And that can get pricey.
So I request books from the Other Guys with the express understanding that I will review it. Some will accept reviews in Goodreads or Amazon; others expect the review to be on the blog. So I will post those here as well, but they will be formatted differently so it’s easy to tell the difference.
If a book is competently written and adequately produced, but just isn’t my cup of tea, it will still show up as a full review, along with whatever comments I have. Things that are coffee for me (I only drink tea) are: romance tropes, YA tropes, horror, lawyers as detectives, and police procedurals. If, in my admittedly arbitrary view, the book is not ready for publication, it will end up in the monthly “Not ready for primetime” post.
What’s my background for identifying good writing? My undergraduate degree was in English. I’ve taught writing on the high school and community college level. I’ve worn different editorial hats: layout, proofreader, developmental, and assistant editor. I’m not someone who believes that everything has to be “literary” to be good, however; I’ve never bought into the idea that if something is popular, that demonstrates that it’s inferior. It would be like saying that anything made with Velveeta is inferior because it’s not made with goat cheese. (Hello, Ro-Tel and Velveeta queso. Sometimes you just want something other than goat cheese, am I right?)
For more, see “How I rate and review.”
A great blog post on whom reviews are for by The Orangutan Librarian: “Reviews Are for READERS.”
To get an idea of what books I’ve liked, see my Goodreads page (and friend me).
To see my arbitrary definition of indie publishing, see “The elusive definition of ‘independently published.'”