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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Reviews: The Good & The Bad


Every author and publisher wants reviews.  Good reviews help sell books and the ego of the author balloons. Bad reviews don’t help a book, though most reviews have a pull quote that one can retrieve something positive to use.

But don’t you wonder why two respectable reviewers can completely disagree over a book?  What value does a review have if two professionals can draw equally opposite conclusions?

One of my clients at Planned Television Arts recently received a glowing book review from one major book industry publication.  Another similar publication completely lambasted the book.  How is that possible?  Is one reviewer a fool for praising what another says is garbage or is the reviewer who claims the book is worthless missing its true value?

I guess the truth is reviewers are just readers and no one review or reviewer is the final judge.  Collectively, the majority of reviews should concur on whether a book is a win or a dud. Can you imagine if you have 10 bloggers who love a book and 10 who hate it?  It seems unlikely, but I guess it can happen.

There are really no official standards used to judge a book. Even the criteria used to decide what gets reviewed is a mystery to most.  With thousands of new books published each week, how does Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Choice, New York Times, Library Journal and others even decide which books to review, let alone recommend?

Interview With Leona Bodie, VP, FL Writers Association

  1. As the vice president of Florida Writers Association, how do you assist writers?  The Florida Writers Association (“FWA”) is a totally volunteer-driven organization. As an officer, my two-year term encompasses leading, advising and supporting FWA activities. In principle and tradition, our mission is writers helping other writers. Like all other volunteers, I’m pleased to give back to this community of 1,200 members.  Whether it's articulated or not writers need the vision of using their gifts to make the world better. That’s the foundation of personal and commercial success. 

Besides serving on the Board, I’m a regional director for seven counties, including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast. My association involvement began as a writers’ group leader for the Palm City Word Weavers, the local chapter I founded to concentrate on peer editorial reviews. Before too long, I took on several other roles that have brought me a great deal of satisfaction as well: being the public voice of the FWA website “contact us” inquiries for nine months and working for the past three years as a dedicated annual conference volunteer in the agent interviews area.
Yes, my roles are varied, but they have a commonality. They’re opportunities to stay connected to a statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to the support and networking of both aspiring and published writers in any genre. I urge all writers to join the FWA. No matter whether they’re just starting, have finished a novel or have been published. Even if they live in another state! All writers are invited to experience the member benefits of social networking on our free FWA Network site, attend the annual conference, receive our quarterly magazine and our monthly e-Newsletter, and enter our writing contests. At our monthly meetings we offer: writing critiques, industry and FWA news, marketing and book promotion discussions and guest speakers. All writing levels and genres are welcomed.
  1. Leona, you have a new book coming out, Fear the Whispers. What is it about?  This story, set in Miami and the Caribbean, has a strong sense of place. It’s about a murder on the high seas.

Madeleine Nesbitt works for the Island Windsong Cruise Line and sails the Caribbean. On the tall ship, she discovers more than unspoiled beaches. Submerged in the water and tangled in the anchor chain, is a male passenger, the body nearly decapitated.  On deck is the severed hand belonging to that corpse, a dark-haired man dressed all in black. A ring, an engraved pocketknife and unusual tattoo are Madeleine’s only clues, but they’re enough for her and forensic expert Vanessa Vidal to make a startling discovery: This violent death had a chilling prequel.

Ten years earlier, a horrifying double murder in the Bahamas leaves two people dead. Madeleine is the one person connected to that massacre still alive. A mysterious politician who knows a secret he dare not tell, a secret that lives and breathes in the shadows. Now Madeleine’s the target of someone, relentlessly evil. Cracking this crime, she must outwit an unseen enemy with years of cunning.

  1. What do you love most about being a published author? It’s the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had since I was 5. Today’s options only make it more exciting. My books have taken me to places where I’ve never gone before.

  1. What advice do you have for struggling writers? I like Sylvia Plath's advice, ". . . everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." To this I'd add, today’s technologies level the playing field, but there’s no substitute for hard work. Whether you’re 6 or 106, as long as you’re doing your due diligence, you’ll succeed.  Stay connected, know the trends, take no shortcuts, hone your craft and write, write, WRITE. Be yourself and follow your dreams. Last, recognize that social media is a valuable tool, use it wisely.

  1. Where do you see the publishing industry heading? Although the publishing industry is dramatically changing, how is technology rewriting the rules?

  • E-Book sales will outpace print book sales. However, I don’t see the printed book format disappearing in the next 20 years. My perspective though is a bit different from my son’s. He advocates we ditch printed books in favor of digital alternatives. I still want the option to have both or at least the right to choose between print and eBook formats. However, when 2084 rolls around, I’d wager it’ll boil down to no choice at all.

  • Recently, a 90-year-old fan surprised me when she flashed out her Kindle and downloaded my title with the flair of a twenty-something. For sure, the eBook revolution is cross generational, here to stay and its launch has upended the publishing industry. For way too long, just a few guided what came to market. Now everyone has equal access to publishing.  New devices and the means of consuming content are changing the industry. Today’s technologies mean mass market exposure is easier and faster with less investment for readers, authors and publishers. Another upside is more royalties.
  • Between the Kindle and Nook e-Book readers, I see Barnes and Noble’s product eventually lagging in the doldrums with Kindle surging ahead in popularity. The latter will capture the market share. Thanks to Amazon’s focus on the continuous improvement associated with technology advances, their e-Reader capabilities will evolve. That innovation will be the key to growth, competition and sustainability.

  • Consumers also want portability, a.k.a. convenience. So all future book content must be adaptable and accessible, no matter whether the public’s choice of delivery is via PCs, laptops, tablets or smart phones, e-readers, iPods, iPads or any other gadgets out there. I also predict digital publishers are racing toward multimedia content. To capitalize on tomorrow’s bleeding edge technologies, more traditional publishers and individual authors will partner with integrated media companies to release digital editions that are more akin to software than anything we seen thus far.

  • Ever since the creation of this tagline, “CreateSpace makes publishing fast and easy with no setup fees,” Amazon now competes with print on demand companies. But Amazon is poised to become an even bigger player fueled by their Kindle sales and their intrusion into what’s always been traditional publisher territory. Amazon.com has already taught readers that they don’t need bookstores. Now it’s encouraging writers to cast aside their publishers.
  • Is Amazon signing up authors, writing publishers out of the deal? New York Times journalist, David Streitfeld says, “Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and e-book form. It is a striking acceleration of the retailer’s fledging publishing program that will place Amazon squarely in competition with the New York houses that are also its most prominent suppliers.”

Where do I see the publishing industry heading? My best guess is technology will continue to revolutionize the book industry!

Leona Bodie is currently Vice President and serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Writers Association, a statewide, nonprofit organization of 1,200 members. Her career took her from high school English teacher to a biotechnology executive and president of the Greater Miami Society of Human Resource Management before she shifted to writing books. She’s the author of the digital short “Cocooned in Darkness,” the upcoming book FEAR THE WHISPERS, and her debut thriller SHADOW CAY, is the recipient of 4 literary awards. For more details about Leona Bodie and her books, please visit: www.leonabodie.com.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Planned Television Arts. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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