Why Review Blogs?
Bryce Dayton is the sole worker bee in the review hive at My Awful Reviews. He IS open to another worker bee, if anyone’s interested. He’s been known to ramble long and hard about almost anything at all, and occasionally mention a good book or two.
Why review blogs? Not too long ago, I posed a question on a forum about where people go to get their recommendations for Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. The results were mixed at best. Many people simply visited Amazon.com and looked at the best reviews. Others went to Goodreads. Others took it one step further and looked at the best critical review. Still others moved it one step further and looked at that critical review and decided if the complaints were things that bothered them in novels they’d read before. My feeling is that review blogs, when done well, cover all of this territory and more, and have the personal touches that I want in my online browsing.
In an age of quick information, it’s nice to slow down and visit a book blog. The reviews are lengthy, and sometimes even a little preachy or ranty. The reviewers (unless they have a huge following) get almost nothing out of the reviews themselves, but you know they felt something strongly enough while reading the book to come and make some comments on it for future generations to see. The posts often have great details, and generally stay spoiler-free. Best of all, if you find yourself agreeing with a number of reviews, you know that you can go to this person over and over again for good books. It’s amazon.com, with a personal touch. The benefits of reading a review blog are fairly obvious. A better question might be why write a review blog?
First and foremost, it’s nice to see my positive reviews helping authors that I really think deserve the help. Most new authors make less than $5000 for their first book (that’s the advance, which many don’t earn anything past). Clearly, an author cannot live on that kind of money, especially if they take a long time to write material and get it published. This means that they have to have day jobs, which cuts into their time, so they write less than they’d probably like to write. It’s a vicious cycle. I like to review books from first time authors because I like to think that every positive review which influences someone to buy a book moves that author one step closer to being able to quit his day job, and pursue a career as a full-time novelist.
Another reason that I really love reviewing books is that I feel like I’m influencing the genre. It might be in a very small way, but when enough review blogs and sites like Amazon or Goodreads all get together and proclaim that a certain author has the best prose or the best settings or the best magic systems, it won’t be too long before writers who haven’t yet been published will look to these authors as sources of inspiration. You’ll start to hear things like, “I really want to learn to invent magic systems that are as cool as Brandon Sanderson’s in Mistborn,” or “I wish that I could write as beautifully as Patrick Rothfuss. I bawled when Kvothe was alone in the forest playing his lute.” The positive reviews got future authors to read the books, and then they attempt to recreate that same magic they had as a reader. It’s no surprise to me that there’s a lot of darker, grittier fantasy books out there right now. George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is often cited as a series that has influenced new authors. And now book blogs sing the praises of Abercrombie, Lynch, Morgan and Bakker, and soon more would-be novelists will be attempting to write in the style that they grew up reading. They’ll add their twists and change up the formula, and the blogs will recommend the best of those changes. I’d better just stop now before I start singing about the circle of life…
The final reason I love review blogs is that I love authors. They’re quirky, funny, intelligent creatures that are always interesting to meet and to talk with. Having a review blog gives me the opportunity to ask some of my heroes if they’d like to sit down and chat with me about their passion in life. And if you ask me, being able to openly talk back and forth about a book you love with the person that wrote it is one of the most exciting things you could ever do.
That’s why I have a review blog. Do you have one? Why do you do it? Or why don’t you do it?