Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Humble Request

At one time, I imagined that reviewers would become much more important in the economy of the book industry. My train of thought went like this: In the old days, when I was younger, any published book had the presumption of a certain level of quality. A book had to be handled by agents and editors and many levels of middlemen, the publisher's sellers and the bookstore's buyers, all before a reader ever had a chance to see it on the shelf. Bad books still slipped through, but finding one left a particularly bad taste in your mouth.

As computers put keyboards in front of everyone with the slightest itch for authorship, manuscripts came in floods, and the barriers came up among editors and agents alike. When POD printing brought the cost of entry down, and Amazon and the other on-line stores opened their gates to stock virtual shelves at minimal cost, many books of sub-standard quality became available to all those readers.

But how can a reader know what is good and what isn't? With the third-party validation of the traditional publishing industry bypassed, all that was left was reviews. I imagined high-profile reviewers would provide that role, and Oprah and her peers can easily make any book a best seller.

But that really only affects a handful of books. What about the bulk of the industry? People will only buy if the book is recommended. If the agents and editors are no longer serving that function, then what? Ban all self-published books? That's what many independent and magazine-based review organizations do. It's self-defense against the flood of books.

For people like me, who don't have a major publishing business to bless our books, we're down to less authoritative reviewers, people who've read the book and like it.

Luckily, there are a number of places humble readers like you and me can make a difference. If you have a blog, you can write a review, but even if you don't, places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online are happy to take reviews and attach them to the books they're trying to sell.

I have been grateful for the wonderful reviews that have shown up on Amazon. It's little things like simple reader reviews that build up over time. My only chance of ever catching a great wave of popularity is if people who like my books tell other people about it. So, I ask, if you've read one of those books up above and liked it, help other people discover it by going to Amazon or any of the other online bookstores and leaving your honest opinion. I'd greatly appreciate it.





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