Note: This post first went live on Dec. 15, but I wanted to run it again in to kick off a series of guests that will be posting here for the next several Thursdays. In the future, these posts will be catalogued under the heading in my side-bar for easy reference.
This week I have a guest for my Thursday post. Maggie is a book reviewer I met first through eFiction Magazine when my short story Ozark Pixies was published, and then have come to know her a little more via Twitter and our Friday Fictioneers.
Today she’ll tell us a little about her review process and what she’s interested in reading. Since finding a reviewer who will evaluate and report on indie books can be difficult, I thought my indie friends would appreciate knowing about her.
She’s available to answer any questions you might have, so leave a comment and ask away!
Unbiased Book Reviews – A Must for Indie Authors
By Maggie Duncan
First, thanks to Madison Woods for letting me guest on her site. I was giddy with excitement when she asked.
I love to read. I’m one of those people who’ll read the RDA label on food packages if I don’t have a book or magazine within reach. My Kindle has over 150 items on it. My stack of magazines could, on occasion, build walls.
So, why, you ask, would I volunteer to read more books and review them? Well, first and foremost, I love to read. (I mentioned that, didn’t I?) I also know that warm, squishy feeling you get when a perfect stranger reads your work and says it’s good. I remember the first review of my collection of short stories, Rarely Well Behaved, some ten years ago. Here was someone I didn’t know and didn’t pay, and she gave me an honest and encouraging review.
I believe that if “indie publishing” is going to challenge traditional publishing with any degree of success, indie authors need “untainted” reviews—as in, all your sorority sisters, junior league members, or extended family didn’t go on Amazon and give you five stars. You need reviews that provide an objective opinion on the work, an evaluation of your self-published work based not on friendship, but on the merit of the writing.
A few months ago, then, I decided to start reviewing the indie books I read. I started out with mini-reviews on my blog (http://mymusings-maggie.blogspot.com/); then, I had two reviews published in eFiction magazine, one in October and the other in December. (If you want to read them, go to efictionmagazine.com, click on “Back Issues,” and download those two issues. However, you’ll need to do it before January 1, 2012, when eFiction back issues will no longer be free.)
How does this work, you ask? Contact me at email@example.com and tell me what genre and where to find your book. Don’t send me a free copy. I’ll buy it. I think it’s “cleaner” that way, and you deserve the royalties. I’ll take a discounted copy, but a free book isn’t necessary. And, trust me, if I don’t like it, it won’t matter whether I’ve paid for it or not. I’ll be honest about it either way.
And about genre. I don’t read Christian fiction or paranormal romances. At all. Sorry if that offends anyone, but neither genre is my cup of tea. I like urban thrillers, mysteries, suspense, a good ghost story, a political thriller (which I write), sci-fi, and historical fiction—or any combination thereof. I’m not a fantasy fan, but if it’s not a knock-off of Lord of the Rings or The Dragonriders of Pern, I’m willing to give it a look. I like characters who are engaging, unusual, and self-sufficient. I especially like strong, intelligent women who don’t wait to be rescued and strong, intelligent men who consider women their equals in every way. Regardless of genre, I like stories that are realistic, i.e., where I can “see” myself in the world you’ve created. Sex (heterosexual or homosexual) and violence don’t bother me, unless they’re gratuitous.
What makes me qualified to offer an opinion on your work? Well, I love to read. My tastes are eclectic. I was an English teacher, and I was a reporter on and editor of an aviation magazine for a total of nineteen years. (By the way, if you’ve included something aviation-related in your work, it needs to be correct. I’ll know.) Bad punctuation and incorrect grammar will put me off, no matter how good the story is.
My review of your work will either appear in my blog, or I’ll submit it to eFiction, which wants reviews of indie fiction. I’ll let you know when it will be published (either place), and you’re welcome to link to it. I’ll also send you a few interview questions and post your responses in my blog as well, to coincide with the review. If you don’t like the review, take a deep breath, then re-read it. It will include constructive criticism.
I see a time in the near future where an “indie author” will receive the same positive attention and the accolades a traditionally published author now receives simply by virtue of being traditionally published. By giving you an honest assessment of your best work, I believe we can both work toward that and make it a more definitive possibility. The sole bar I’ll measure you against is whether I’ll recommend your book to my friends.
Here’s my challenge to you: Everything I’ve said I don’t read or don’t like, prove me wrong with your work. I love to read. Who’ll be first?
If you have any questions, e-mail me or post a question as a comment to this, and I’ll respond.
Phyllis Anne “Maggie” Duncan is a retired federal employee who now writes fiction full-time. She is the author of a collection of short stories, Rarely Well Behaved. When she’s not writing the occasional short story, she’ll be working on another revision of her trilogy about domestic terrorism, A Perfect Hatred. She lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and loves to spoil her grandkids.