Saturday, November 26, 2011

Guest Post on Reviews and Reviewers by Fantasy Author Ty Johnson

Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of RoguesBayne’s Climb and More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords. His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, is just out and is now available for e-books as of November 21. To find out more, follow him at his blog

Now I'll let Ty discuss reviews and reviewers:

Once upon a time, book reviewers were thought to be mysterious figures, like ancient wizards who resided upon high in lofty towers. Most larger newspaper had a professional book reviewer or two, as did many magazines. Even smaller newspapers and publications often sported a part-time or semi-professional book reviewer.

Oh, how times have changed. Now it seems there are book reviewers all over the place, though the majority of them are not necessarily what one might consider a professional, in this case meaning these reviewers are not making a living from their reviews alone (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The Internet has opened up opportunities for all of us to voice our opinions, and this includes book reviewers. There are review blogs, reviews on Amazon, reviews at Goodreads, links to reviews on Twitter and Facebook, reviews at HuffingtonPost, reviews, reviews, reviews.

I, for one, am thankful for all these reviews, and I’m also thankful the majority of these reviews are not coming from so-called professional reviewers.

I worked as a newspaper journalist for nearly 20 years, and I have first-hand experience watching professional book reviewers at work. Book reviewing is hard, in no small part because much of what is being reviewed simply isn’t very good, or at least isn’t worth any level of excitement.

As a fiction writer, my preference leans toward the less stuffy reviews of today, often short, to the point, and often eye opening. Writers get to see first-hand what is and is not liked in their fictional works, and good reviewers will spell out what worked and what did not.

Admittedly there are a lot of bad reviews and reviewers out there. Five minutes perusing book reviews on Amazon will prove this. Every once in a while you might also run across someone giving bad reviews out of spite or for reasons having nothing to do with the books or writers being reviewed. The opposite also happens occasionally, with writers trying to hoist fake good reviews upon the public.

However, the stilted reviews and the fake reviews are almost always obvious. The general reading public is not stupid, and the majority can spot an unfair review a mile away.

The intelligence of the reading public, and the growing numbers of solid reviewers, is one of the reasons I’ve never bought into the argument that a wave of bad e-books from unfiltered authors is a bad thing. Again, readers aren’t stupid, and they will be able to find what they want when they want it. There are billions of websites out there, but Google and other search engines make sure viewers can find they information they desire. Amazon and Smashwords and other online venues can and will accomplish much the same for writers and readers.

The problem for writers, however, is how to let readers know about your books and e-books. This is where reviewers are important. More and more readers are following book reviews, in no small part because of the massive amount of literature currently available (and it’s growing by the second). Readers are finding their favorite book blogs, and their favorite Amazon reviewers. Readers are sharing links at their favorite social networking sites.

Perhaps more than at any time in the history of the printed word, readers are depending more upon word-of-mouth than they are advertisements or bookstore placement for their reading material. It’s true Amazon and Barnes & Noble can still drive book and e-book sales through placements on their sites, but readers are finding freedom in looking elsewhere for good books, writers and reviews.

So, you writers out there, you need to pay attention to reviewers. Quality reviewers get noticed, and they can help you get noticed.

Readers, you, too, need to watch for good reviewers, because they can open your eyes to all new adventures, all new ways of thinking, new worlds, and new writers.

We need reviewers, especially good ones. They get the word out.


Charles Gramlich said...

Yeah, I like the current type of review as well. The older version seemed more intent on being witty without necessarily being fair to the work.

Ty said...

Charles, yep, that's how I feel. Professional reviewers spend all their time doing nothing but reviewing, and often reviewing sub-par material, I feel they become jaded after a while.

J.R., thanks for hosting me today!

Lyn said...

What's cool about Amazon's review is that you can see all of the reviewer's reviews. It only takes a few moments to scan through and see if the person has an ax to grind or not. Some people wonder how we'll find good books with the millions of volumes published and self-published each year - well, the same way we always have: by browsing and word of mouth. Browsing is just a bit different nowadays, lol.