Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Interview With Foreword Reviews Editor Matt Sutherland

1.      Matt, as the managing editor of Foreword Reviews, how do you feel your magazine can work with authors and publishers to advance their books? We're a book review journal that adamantly refuses to review books from the big corporate publishers. The Random Houses and Simon & Schusters of the world don't need any more help getting coverage for their books. More importantly, high-quality small, independent publishers don't receive near enough review attention.

ForeWord Reviews can only review approximately 140 books per issue (ForeWord is a quarterly review journal distributed to 10,000 librarians and booksellers, with newstand sales in 325 Barnes & Noble stores). We receive 250 or so books a week, so picking a mere 140 out of 3000 books is tough. We're also a prepublication review journal so we want to see projects at least two or three months ahead of their pub dates. Obviously, the books we choose to review must be absolutely perfect - from cover design and backcover copy to a professional looking copyright page, TOC, and backmatter, in addition to excellent writing and organization of materials - to earn a review. 

Clarion is a pay-for-review service we introduced nearly ten years ago for publishers and authors struggling to get their books reviewed. Clarion uses the same reviewers (ForeWord has 125 reviewers around the country) as the magazine. The reviews average 475 words. These reviews are not simply a quick summary of the book. We offer objective, well-written, critical reviews for the trade and consumers.

2.      What would you say is the editorial voice of the magazine? We lean literary and strive to be hip and adventuresome. We love discovering new authors and publishers. We firmly believe the nation's university presses and small, independent publishers are publishing most of the interesting books reaching the marketplace today.

3.      How can your publication capitalize on the growing self-publishing sector? We're very supportive but, also, very demanding of self publishers. In order to be taken seriously, it's crucial that every publisher and author relies on professional designers and editors. The competition is dishearteningly stiff. Self publishers must strive to produce the best book they possibly can.   

4.      What type of books does your publication prefer to receive for review? How do you evaluate them? We review a fairly even split of fiction and nonfiction. We always include some poetry, debut novels, YA fiction, mystery, thriller, sci-fi, and short stories, but our heart is in high-quality literary fiction. We love books on travel, history, memoir, cooking, nature, and spirituality / religion. As the managing editor, I spend a minute or two with every book deciding whether it might qualify for a review in the magazine. If it makes the first cut, I'll spend another five to ten minutes reading and evaluating before assigning it to a reviewer.

5.      What do you see as the future of book publishing for the next few years? Yes, we'll see more digital books. Yes, we'll see more high profile authors forming their own publishing houses. Yes, we'll see more book communities (Goodreads, for example) playing a very useful role in helping readers find the books they want. But, I think a certain reader maturity will settle in soon and much of the marketing fanfare and bluster will dwindle away. Great, well-written stories will win out every time.

6.      Any advice for struggling writers? Read, read, read some more. If you're striving to write fantasy, read the best fantasy writers and take notes and think hard about why their books are good. And then, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. When you think you're ready, find some readers you trust and let them read your stuff. Don't let them blow too much complimentary smoke in your direction. It won't do you or your work any good. 


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2013 

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