This is not a review

Sean Dexter, author of Maggie’s Drawers, is a stubborn man but also, apparently, one of integrity. I’ve never met him, although we have communicated by email. My sister gave his wife a copy of my novel, Under a False Flag. Sean read it and liked it enough to write a favorable review on Amazon.com and Goodreads.com. That prompted a correspondence between us, and a “friending” on Goodreads.

I was appreciative of his kind words for my book and also intrigued by the subject of one of his own novels, in which the Kennedy assassination plays a tangential role. So, I downloaded Maggie’s Drawers and read it, fully intending to reciprocate with a review.

But Sean asked me not to. “I’d rather have no reviews (which seems to be the way I’m headed) than recip reviews,” he explained. He said he’s sickened by all of the pandering and pleading that goes on between self-published authors in the social media. Having recently read an article in the New York Times about purchased reviews, and having struggled to draw attention to my own novel, I fully understood where Sean was coming from.

But how then does an independent author get the word out about his or her work? We write to be read. It doesn’t happen automatically. Traditional publishers launch publicity campaigns to generate awareness and sales. Most independent authors can’t afford the time or money to do that.

And most authors are writers, not self-promoters. This, it seems to me, is the biggest quandary about the brave new world of independent publishing, where a plethora of self-hyped books, both good and bad, can overwhelm readers. How do fun, fast-paced suspense novels like Sean’s or literary novels that break expected norms (imagine Joyce self-publishing Ulysses today) come to the fore?

I wish I knew the answer. I used to think good quality eventually rises to the top, but in this age of open-door publishing I’m no longer sure it does. Readers must be willing to take a chance on unrated books by unknown authors and then spread the word themselves or independent publishing will become their worst nightmare—a purchased, reciprocal or self-proclaimed “five-star” tower of Babel.

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10 Comments

September 25, 2012 · 6:13 pm

10 responses to “This is not a review

  1. reviews are still good, look for somebody to write a review and no an homage to your work. A review should be simple and explanatory of your book. Does not need to be a critical study.We-readers- we need guidance, words of mouth is not enough..”read that book is good”
    risking your money buying something you never heard of? If you have a facebook page advertise there or publish you review only in an important magazine, virtual newspaper, etc. Authors needs to be pro-active these days, sorry, but it is the only way, what to read is an investigation today.Be aware if some dishonest people, it´s true, they SAY that their book is great…and you believe them and you waist your money.We need reviews.

  2. Hola amiga mía! I agree. As readers we need honest reviews to help us sift through the many, many books being published. They serve a vital purpose. But just as publisher-negotiated blurbs on book covers are meaningless, so too are the indiscriminate, back-scratching reviews that indie authors often must rely on. Perhaps the answer is to find reviewers in the broadcast media who, unsolicited, are willing to review unknown authors. But how often does that happen? When was the last time you opened the New York Times or any other newspaper to a review of a self-published independent author? Perhaps the blogosphere is the future for intelligent, honest book reviews.

  3. My hope is that we will, one day, open the NYTimes or the equivalent and find many self-published books reviewed. That, hopefully, the world of reviewers will catch up with the changing world of publishing. But, as we know all this takes time. As you say, the blogosphere is now a wonderful place to discover great self-published works (such as your own!). I find it exciting to live in a time of change in the publishing world…. I wonder where it will take us!

  4. I agree with your last paragraph. I’ve been as baffled by it all. I’ve had experience with traditional and self-publishing. Traditional publishing gives a head start in credibility, but it isn’t a cakewalk. Publishing is a mix of joy, wonder, and hurt whether the book sells well or not. I wish your readers and both of us best of luck with our books.

  5. It’s been on my to-do-list to write a post similar to this.

    On the one hand, I can’t help but feel saddened that so many brilliant writers will be left out to rust because they’re writers, and writers purely. While other writers; dare I say less talented ones (though not always)? Streamline their works all the way to the top, simply because they’re more adept in the world of social media.

    It seems that today, the author has to be more marketable than what they author. I’ve faith that the Shakespeare’s of our age will still be afforded their deserved kudos and be granted their time in the spotlight, though, I’m not to sure that they will necessarily get to experience it while they’re alive.

    Granted, Henry David Thoreau’s work wasn’t appreciated until he died, and he lived in a world without social media. Maybe shameless self promotion is the only way to go?

    Whadaya gonna do?

  6. Good points. Melville’s incredible Moby Dick almost died in obscurity, too, as did the author. I like your optimism for quality eventually rising to the top.

  7. At Armchair Interviews, we just evaluate the books that we hand-pick. Our book reviews are honest, reputable, and always respectful (even if we don’t love a book). Our book reviews are all about the books.

  8. Pingback: Does My Blog Harm Literature? | Tom Gething re reading

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