Saturday, August 18, 2007

I Want to do More

Maybe it's because summer is over (and the kids are back in school) but I'm starting to feel a little more motivated where the blog is concerned. I've often mentioned how making this a sci-fi blog has pigeonholed me a bit but now I'm beginning to think it can be useful. How you ask? I've noticed that big companies are starting to realize that blogs have marketing potential. I occasionally get email from the promotional departments of different TV networks and sci-fi oriented publications. I've also been lucky enough to be approached by new authors now and then and asked to read and review their books. So, I'm thinking of how I can use this to make this blog more interesting to the reader and maybe get some more involvement from the people who come here now and then. If any of you have been to Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, then you are aware that there are blogs out there that do regular giveaways. I would looooove to do this. So much so that I have started contacting publishers to see if that would be possible. And the cool thing about blogs like Pat's is that it proves you don't have to suck up to the publishers to get giveaway copies of books. Pat regularly does reviews of books and he gives his honest opinion. He tells you what he likes and what he doesn't like and it doesn't seem to affect his ability to get books. I like that. But I do want to ask you guys something. The fact is that I probably will need to do regular book reviews to get the free copies. I have no problem with that but I doubt I will have the time to read and review everything. What I am hoping to do is have some readers volunteer to help me out. I would send you a copy of whatever the publisher sends me and have you review it here on my site-- or perhaps another site I set up for that purpose. As you know I already have a few contributors here, so obviously they would get first shot at anything coming in. But I'd like to leave the door open for guest contributors as well. This is all open to speculation right now. I need to see if I can get some interest from some sci-fi publishers and I'm also betting that anything I get in the near future will most likely be new, untried authors. And I don't want to turn this site into a just a publicity machine for anyone, but I think I could find a balance between regular content, reviews and giveaways. But still, I'd like to try it out. So, tell me what you think.

35 comments:

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It's always tricky, as books can be given if they think you are going to say something favourable.

SQT said...

Jean-luc

I think that's been the case most of the time but I have noticed more blogs getting books while still doing honest reviews. I think the publishers are starting to realize that if something brings attention to their product (like giveaways) they seem to be at least somewhat okay with an honest assessment.

I haven't seen any blog do a complete hatchet job on a book though, so it's probably better to stick with the this is what I like.....this is what could use improvement..... format.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic. But I gotta try.

S.M.D. said...

I'm in. I've done a bunch of reviews on my blog, but I've always wanted to be able to get ARC's and actual books from a publisher, I just don't know how. So I'm completely in. I would love to do reviews for you!

SQT said...

S.M.D.

Thanks. I'm not sure I'll be able to swing it, but I can sure try. Most publishers have emails set up where you can inquire for ARC's so I'm going that route. Penguin Group has a whole page of links HERE just for those sort of requests. I've emailed most of them and then I went to Orbit Books. I still need to look up TOR and Del Rey and others. But I'll try them all. The worst they can do is say no...

SQT said...

Oh, and S.M.D., as much as it pains me to share this, J.V. Jones is giving away galleys of her newest book. The giveaway is HERE. It's only up until tomorrow. I've already put my plea in for a copy but I think she's going to do a drawing so my chance is no better than anyone elses.

I hoping my love for her books comes through and she pick me!

Can I suck up or what?

S.M.D. said...

Oh cool, thanks for the link, and thanks for considering adding me in. It's something I've wanted to do and just never knew how. I mean, what sort of email do you even send to publishers? I haven't a clue how to do it :S

SQT said...

S.

I haven't a clue either. But like I said, it can't hurt to try.

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Remy said...

The first book that I ever received from a publisher I ended up giving a horrible review for. It hasnt' stopped me from getting future books and even having giveaways from the same publisher.

http://www.thefantasyreview.com/2007/07/20/brasyl-review/

I haven't had a problem with Pyr even after that review so I doubt you would have a problem.

SQT if you have any questions about working with publishers or anything feel free to email me. I would love to help

SQT said...

Remy that is awesome! Thank you so much. I will definitely be picking your brain.

Stewart Sternberg said...

The key to reviewing is to not publish bad reviews. I receive "Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine" and Charles DeLint writes great reviews for that mag. His philosophy is: people read reviews to find titles worth reading.

When a reader reads a bad review, what does he have? Nothing. Instead of finding a book to read, you've found a book to avoid. When a reader reads a good and informative review, then there is something to put in a shopping cart.

I just published a bad review in "Dark Wisdom" for a film called "The Jacket". But it wasn't really a review but a commentary, with three other authors writing their own views. All different from mine. Surprise. The point is if writing a review for "Wisdom" I would have found something I enjoyed and written about it.

Yes, there are film critics and book critics who tear things apart, but I prefer a more positive approach. Bad books don't get reviewed.

SQT said...

Stu

I get what you're saying. But have you seen some of the "review" sites out there that love everything? It kind of drives me nuts. And I'm not saying I want to crucify a book. Which is kind of the reason I'd like other people to help me review.

I already know I like more lightweight stuff than you do a lot of the time. I also know that there are other people who really like straight sci-fi when I prefer fantasy. So I might have a harder time enjoying a really good book that just isn't a good fit for me.

But I still think a good review doesn't just gush and go that was great! There has to be some critical thinking involved. And I'm sure you're not suggesting otherwise. I just like sites like Pat's and Remy's because they're honest.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Writing a positive review isn't gushing..its finding things that are good about a work and highlighting those. For instance, if I wouldn't do a review on The Gunslinger by Stephen King. Instead I would review the current novel I am reading: "First Man in Rome" by Cathleen McCollough.

Or if a novel is flawed, I would acknowledge those flaws and then show what was positive.

Many sites review and it's obvious those reviews are nothing but advertising for the book or film.

I think the best way to look at it would be to imagine someone asked me: "I have some free time, can you recommend a book for me to read?" It's not often people engage in conversation and say: "I'm looking for a book, can you tell me what to avoid."

People, especially people who imagine themselves as film critics, often imitate the bad critics out there who feel it their job to bash everything except a handful of "artistes". I cringe when I hear people discuss film most of the time. They have little idea what directing, editing, or acting entails. They don't understand cinematography or scoring. So many people have only a rudimentary knowledge of the rudiments of dramatic structure.

When I read most blog critiques I smile and nod, mostly happy because someone is expressing himself or herself. However, I don't take most of those reviews seriously unless I really trust the author.

God, what a pompous arrogant snob I've become. I'm almost Alex.

SQT said...

Many sites review and it's obvious those reviews are nothing but advertising for the book or film.

That's what I hope to avoid.

God, what a pompous arrogant snob I've become. I'm almost Alex.


Perish the thought.

I don't claim to be qualified to do anything. This is blog like any other and I'm just trying to find a way to make it more interesting. Book reviews never seem to be hugely popular on blogs if I'm just going by comment count. But I have found a lot of good authors through blog reviews and I'd like to showcase a few of the one's I like.

If I'm particularly lucky I'll get some books for giveaways which would be better than reviews since people seem to like them so much. Of course, who wouldn't like free stuff?

I don't know Stu, I'm just trying to find a way to grow the blog beyond just a silly post now and then. I love the fantasy/sci-fi genre and to be honest I'd like to promote it a bit. I'd like people to read more of the style and learn to appreciate it.

Carl V. said...

I'm game to help out when and if I can! Hope you get this to work out, it is fun getting free books to read!

SQT said...

Carl

What would be cool, since you already have a review site, is to link up, or post the review on both sites. I'd love to have you participate!

Patrick said...

Ah shit... More competition! Again!;-)

Best of luck to you in this endeavor! My only advice is to be fair, be honest. Because the only reason publishers will keep sending you books is if they realize that there are readers out there who trust you.

SQT said...

No Pat no! I don't intend to be competition. I doubt I could anyway. I'd like to think there's room for all of us and anyway, I don't intend to solely review books or do giveaways. Your blog will still be unique in its format. I just want to add more reviews (and hopefully giveaways) in now and then for variety.

The Curmudgeon said...

I used to have to do book reviews for a bar association magazine... our editor tried to assign books for review by local lawyers or that concerned the practice in the City or the history of the City.

The quality was wildly uneven.

I found it difficult to finish books that were simply academic exercises... expanded law review articles, etc. Some of the "history" books were graduate theses that were not re-written for a general readership....

I didn't want to be negative... so I wound up (in several cases) doing nothing at all (and not endearing myself to the editor in chief either).

That's one of the reasons I so admire a reviewer like Roger Ebert... the reviews he writes about movies he hates are often more entertaining than the ones he writes about movies he loved. Of course, Ebert gets paid to sit through movies whether they're good or bad... while my book review reading took time away from reading books I might really have enjoyed, making it just like work but without any hope of compensation.

On the other hand, I'm always on the lookout for new books to read. I wouldn't mind doing reviews -- but only if I could read books I liked.

Probably way too much to ask for, isn't it?

SQT said...

Curmudgeon

Not necessarily. What I will probably do (if I can get some books) is put up a list of what I have and see who wants what. You're right in that the quality may be uneven, but at the same time there are a few regulars who come here that I think would do very well and who already have a track record.

The thing is, I also have a ton of books that I have bought that might be of interest to someone. I may start listing one's to pass on to others to review here and see how that works.

I dunno, I'm just experimenting right now.

Patrick said...

No worries!:-)

The Blogosphere is big enough for all of us!

Tia Nevitt said...

I'd say to go for it! If you keep that balance that you seek at the top of your mind, then I'm sure you will do well.

crunchy carpets said...

I think that is a great idea....
I think it would be fun to be able to promote the up and comers out there...the newbies with cool ideas, etc...or the one's who never got a big break...like Daniel Keys Moran.

I too have noticed that my mommy site is getting hit for more review stuff..and if I had the brains to think these days, I would do it ofr sure!

Matt said...

I'd definitely read any reviews posted on this site. I pretty much trust what I read here (I'm easy like that) and having another reliable source for recommendations can only be a good thing.

I'm not sure if I could contribute much, but I'm the default sci-fi/fantasy "expert" at the bookstore I work at so I get to talk about books quite a lot. I'd love to pass on some of my favorites and what other people are reading these days.

SQT said...

Tia

Thanks! I appreciate it.

Crunchy

I'm glad you'd like to participate. I've actually heard back from a couple of authors, who have forwarded me to their publicists. With any luck I'll have some stuff to choose from soon.

Matt

I'd love any recommendations you have. Since so many people have their own blogs I might just start a link list that links to reviews on other sites.

Graeme Flory said...

Hey sqt!
It's all about saying it as you see it. I've given certain books a low score and the same publisher keeps sending me more stuff. I think they know that if you give something a low score then it means you're really being honest when you praise something else.
I might be able to help with some contacts, drop me a line and I'll see what I can do.

Cheers :o)

SQT said...

Thanks Graeme!

So far I'm having pretty good luck. I've heard back from Orbit and they're going to put me on their blogger shipping list. Woo Hoo! And I heard back from a publicist at Penguin who wanted to know more about the blog. They have some really great authors so I am really crossing my fingers on this one!

Lawrence said...

I can only say, good luck! I think the two most important you got to work with are there already - enthusiasm and dedication. I have tried my hands on writing about ten reviews now, and I can only say that's dangerously addicting. But pursue doing it anyway! ;)

pussreboots said...

I'm sorry I missed this post on Sunday. It sounds like fun. I'd love to help with the reviews. Would the reviews be posted here or on our own blogs (or both?)? However it works out it still sounds like fun.

SQT said...

Puss

The publicist told me I should be getting books right away. If that's the case I'm probably going to start sending out review copies soon to people who want them. If I get a lot of books I'm probably going to set up a review site all by itself and link it to this one. (prominently of course)

Since most, if not all, of the volunteer reviewers have their own blogs I think we can do it a couple of ways. We can either post the review on both blogs or post on one and link to the other. Since I'm going to be sending out the books I'm going to ask that the full review get posted on my site but I sure don't mind if it gets posted on both.

I'll definitely put your name on the list of potential reviewers. I bet I get a lot of newer authors so I'll need people to be agreeable to reading someone new fairly often. But there have been so many great new authors I doubt it will be very hard.

SQT said...

Oh, I was also thinking that if any of my book review contributors put reviews up on their own site that isn't related to anything I sent them, I still link them to my site. I'm going to have a prominent link list to the side that lists the book review and the author. I think this could be a win-win for all of us since I also intend to do giveaways when I can. That always brings traffic to the blog and that should also send traffic to the blogs who are linked up as well.

texasboyblue said...

I have site where I do book reviews, but I've been doing it the hard way. MOst of the books I've reviewed (44 so far and counting), I bought. I had a couple of authors give me their books and I've recieved a couple of advance readers' copies from publishers.

If I can share my reviews on both sites, I'll be more than happy to help out. If that's not good for you, I understand entirely ("no" is a pefectly acceptable answer).

Good luck...and you are about to experience just how far down the rabbit hole goes...

SQT said...

TBB

No kidding. I may have taken on more than I realize. That is part of the reason I'm delegating.

I'll be happy to put you on the review list. I don't know how many books I'll get so I may have to do a drawing to see who gets what. But maybe I'll get another publisher and have more than enough to go around.

This could be fun though. I can't wait to see how many blogs link up and how many reviews we get going.

S.M.D. said...

Took me a while to catch up :S. Sorry, I was really freaking out this weekend cause of the whole Shingles thing. I thought it was something horrible like skin cancer, so spent about 12 hours searching WebMD and Wrong Diagnosis for answers :S.

I'm completely up for sharing all reviews with you and having it show up on the site. Even ones not related to what you give out. I also don't mind reading new authors, and would actually be very open to the idea since there isn't a lot of representation out where I live for SF/F and especially not where I'll be moving. This will be a great opportunity to find new books and new authors that I'll enjoy and hopefully mine and your readers will too.

Just to be clear though, reviews we make would be posted here, but would also have a link to our blogs right? Just seeing how it will all work. I'm really psyched about this and it's really cool how everything is coming together for you :).

SQT said...

S.M.D

I don't mind if you post here and at your own blog. I only want to make sure if I send you a book it gets posted here for sure. One publisher is sending me books on a trial basis and it's contingent on doing reviews and posting them. I need to be able to send them a link to my blog and they put that in their database. I'll let you know when I get some books in. Plus, I've already created a book review blog to attach to this one. I'm going to keep a link list on it too just to link up to participating reviewers and their blogs.

Shingles? I hope you're feeling okay. I've heard shingles can be very painful.