Thursday, March 29, 2007

The State of the Blogs

Although the legendary PODdy Mouth has retired from her mountainous slushpile, her vacuous void seems to be filled by the somewhat aggressive POD Critic and others who have rushed into the fray. I refer to POD Critic as aggressive because he sort of comes from the same New York publishing mold of tradition that brought so much attention to the deceased girlondemand. He seems to be saying Bring on the slushpile! in a manner that I studiously avoid. We have very little in common as POD book reviewers, and that is exactly the way it should be in order for us to offer a genuine choice to the horde of authors out there desperate for honest reviews. You can call them honest; or you can call them legitimate, as I do in the header of this blog. Whatever you want to call them, these are reviews presented with the intent of placing deserving POD books on the same shelf as good, traditionally published books. Maybe the percentage of deserving POD books is much smaller than that of traditionally published ones, but we all know that at least a few high-quality POD books have been released. In my humble opinion, the number is much higher than a few.

The higher quantity of deserving books is one of the reasons I have chosen to review only iUniverse books. Every POD reviewer needs to limit the potential onslaught in one way or another. My method is just a little more unusual. If you read certain posts on this blog, you will rapidly discover that I have no connection whatsoever with iUniverse other than four books of my own wearing that nameplate. I am a very anti-corporate person and iU is a corporation just like all the rest. I refuse to feed any of my twelve engines anything but Exxon because they make the best gasoline. When I spend a godzillion hours creating a book, I will gladly pay a little more to the company that I think makes the best print-on-demand books. Unlike many of the other review blogs, I insist on reading the actual, paper book. I am giving you a lot of personal service for free. You can wrap up a copy of your book and trot down to the post office.

Anyone considering submitting a book for review is encouraged to check out the links on this blog. You should be amazed at the choices you really have. Some write really long, detailed reviews, and some compose compact little signatures that capture the essence of your book. Many will review the common fiction genres such as scifi, thrillers, fantasy, romance, horror, etc., but you are, of course competing with many other aspiring authors for those review slots. If you are fifty years old and you have written the nonfiction work of your lifetime, I'm your man. Some reviewers accept Young Adult books, but others do not. Some will place your reviews on Amazon or B&N, but others will not. I doubt that any others will compose separate reviews for you: that's part of what I referred to earleir as personal service. Many of the other reviews are absolutely free. Mine are not, since you must pay for an author-discounted copy of your book and a few dollars of postage. Some reviewers will tell you what a mess you have made. If I do that, it will be via personal, direct email, not included within the review. Most of the other reviewers keep their identities private. Mine is available for any prospective reviewee to discover with a modicum of research. You are encouraged to research anything you want to know about me before submitting your review request. As soon as I receive a submission request from you, I will seek out whatever information I can about you and your book prior to accepting it for review. I don't really have a slushpile, and I think this is the main reason why practically all of the iU books I have read have been quite good. Yes, there have been a couple of turkeys, but unlike all the other legitimate review blogs of POD books, my supply of gobblers has been quite small.

This brings me to mention that other kind of POD reviewer. There are bunches of these out there, and, unfortunately, you have to do a lot of internet research to truly discover their real essence. To be nice, as well as accurate, I call them volume reviewers. Most of them charge real money for their POD reviews, although some try to carefully conceal this biased fact from both authors and readers. Some of them charge outrageous fees, such as the $360 Kirkus charges for an iUniverse review! If you have ever wondered why you have never heard of me directly through iU, this is the reason. Why would any author buy the cow if he knew he could get the milk for free elsewhere?

As I said to POD Critic back when he was just starting his blog, what we need is a known ring of POD reviewers. The ring does not have to be technically set up in any particular manner. It just needs to be easily searchable and available for interested authors and readers. I think it should be limited to strictly legitimate POD reviewers with no volume reviewers allowed. If you read through many of POD Critic's posts, I think you will get the picture. Anyone can churn out positive reviews of bullshit for $70. Whenever you look at a review of a POD book at Amazon, always click on the See All My Reviews link. Yes, I live right down the road from a company that shovels bull hockey on any POD author with $70 to squander on a glowing review! If you request a review from me, I shall click every link you have at Amazon and B&N, and I'll know if your earlier reviews are legitimate or not, even before I accept your book for review. If I want to buy a car, I read the specifications page of the model's road test in Road & Track. Have you read the fine print on an R&T specs page? They tell you everything from the temperature and wind velocity at the time of the test to the gear ratios in the transmission! That's the sort of information I want to read about a book in a review before I buy the product. I don't want to know the plot details, but I do want to know how it compares to other books of its type. A Motor Trend reader might buy a book after reading a review paid for by the author, but I wouldn't.

The only way POD authors and books will gain any genuine, lasting respect is to earn it. If we don't care enough to edit and proofread the hell out of our books, how can we expect readers to truly enjoy reading them? In case you haven't figured it out already, when I review an iU book I'm looking for professionalism above everything else. I want to hold a book in my hand. I want it to be not a vanity-press book, not a Print On Demand book, not a self-published book, but just a book. POD Critic and a few others will shove your plotline, characters, and dialogue through the ringer for you. Certainly I shall do some of that, too, but not as diligently as others will. We as authors, readers, and reviewers are offering our humble services to you. You can take the bait and risk being told what kind of writer you really are, or you can take your credit card down the street. They will be quite happy to tell you whatever you want to hear. Can you handle the truth?


Lee said...

Thanks for this explanation of your intent. I'll be keeping an eye on your reviews.

podlingmaster said...

Bravo, I appreciate your honest take on the service we as POD reviewers are providing. "Free (for the most part, abiding the cost of shipping a copy to some), and honest.
we in the POD corner of the industry have been patting ourselves on the back too long, thinking there's something wrong with the industry when they don't take much have we given them to take notice of?

ohdawno said...

Thank you for your link to the PODPeople site. I'm the review coordinator there and, speaking for myself, I appreciate your inclusion of the site as one of the legitimate ones.

I think you have a good approach to POD reviewing and look forward to visiting here often.

Ian said...

Interesting and useful stuff. I'm in process at iUniverse right now and have never been in the position of seeking reviews before. Thanks for your take on it!


Marti said...

Best wishes to all of you. I hope honest reviews will help struggling writers hone their craft.

The Best of Self-Publishing

veinglory said...

The issue of handling the truth is an interesting one. Many in heady realms of "traditional" publishing still don't seem to have learned how to suck it up when required. And the connections between publishers and reviewers remain muddied and often dishonest in many venues. I think that blogs have the potential to provide some of the most impartial information out there--to the point where purchases can turly be based on recommednation, quality and the bestfit of book to reader. -- well, in my more optimistic moments I think that...