The Theory on Bad Reviews

We're at the point that I need to address something that I've been trying to avoid: the subject of bad reviews. Authors and publishing companies send us their books. I feel it's both a great honor and a great responsibility. These are works that people have labored over. The majority are small publishing houses that don't have a lot marketing dollars, including money to send review copies. That means that these same small houses don't receive a lot of reviews for their books. That means they don't generate a buzz, which means the books are harder to sell.

Now, sometimes, these small houses are one-man-bands. The self-published author. This is generally a person who has invested his or her own money into making the book a reality. Sometimes, albeit rarely, self-publishing works. There's a great book out there that, for whatever reason, mainstream publishing companies aren't picking up. These people have even fewer shots of getting reviews for their books, and even less of a chance of distribution and sold copies. These are the books I want to champion.

My interest in publishing has always been wide. The publishing companies are working hard to keep their doors open. The authors often don't make enough on a book to quit their day jobs. Not a lot of people are getting rich. Yet, it's an industry that is flooded with books. It's overwhelming to readers. I originally created this blog for people interested in both reading and the business of books. I've posted the occasional negative review about a book from a large house. My reasoning: there is so much press about the books from big houses that another commentary is just that: another voice in the mix.

But, to this point, I haven't posted a bad review of a book from a small press. I have read some books that were lacking, and written a few negative reviews. But, after doing some Internet searches on the books in question and finding no information, I decided not to post the reviews. The reason? Why should the only mention of a book be negative? Perhaps nobody is buying it in the first place, why bother to post reviews of something not being read? I don't want to hurt a small house that is struggling just to meet its overhead. Yet, at the same time, the publisher has sent their book to me, a reviewer, to critique. Perhaps authors are wondering what happened to their books? (For the record, the process is like this: books come in, are logged and then put in line to be read, critiqued, then at the end of each calendar year, given to the reviewers or donated to the local library.) Why is this blog, one that strives to devote itself to the small press, lacking in book reviews about the small press?

The answer is two fold: 1) some of the books sent to me from small presses have received negative reviews that I chose not to post; 2)I give reviewers the freedom to choose the book they want to discuss.

But, I have a responsibility to readers. If someone sends a book, they do it in good faith. If the book was good, I'd post it in a heartbeat. If the book deserves a negative review, it also should be posted. The first negative review is being posted today. Give me your feedback. Based on that, I'll decide whether or not to post others.

By the way, if you're a publisher who wants your book reviewed, or a reviewer looking for a home for your reviews, address queries to me: Brandi Larsen-- bookaday at gmail.com.

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