SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Delighted to introduce Kristopher Zgorski, of Bolo Books. While I read many book blogs, I must confess that I've often felt that Kristopher and I must have been separated at birth — our opinions on books are that similar. So I know if Kristopher really loves something — whether it's a book, film, or TV show, odds are really, really, really high I'll love it, too. (Um, hello FOX's Empire, which I wouldn't have seen without Kristopher's high recommendation!)
Kristopher Zgorski: As a book blogger, I am often asked how I choose which books I am going to read and review.
I should first say that I do not review every book I read. In fact, I would say that only roughly 1/3 of the books I read in a given year end up being reviewed. Because I want BOLO Books to remain a positive place which encourages reading, I really only review books that I truly enjoyed and feel completely comfortable recommending.
But this still does not answer the question at hand.
Given my position as an online advocate for books and reading, I have to stay on top of the latest industry buzz titles. I do this via social media, conventions, and digital galley distribution sites. Beyond that, much of what I glom onto comes via word-of-mouth recommendations.
Let’s look at each of these in a bit more depth:
Social Media: Almost daily, I will hear about a book on Twitter or Facebook that peaks my interest. Once that happens, I begin to look into the title further to see if it fits the BOLO Books genre, sounds like something I will potentially enjoy, and check out the release date. Since I only review new titles (generally within the first month of release), I am often able to place that book on my general TBR list rather than the blog list. I am pretty good at knowing what types of books I will NOT like, so I can usually avoid them as well.
As an example, I first heard about The Girl on the Train months before it was released. I was immediately interested and kept the title in mind. Then I heard that galleys were given out at Theakston’s Old Peculiar conference and I started to make efforts to obtain an early copy. Ultimately successful, I added the book to the schedule and waited until it was closer to release date to read it. At that time, I enjoyed it enough to decide to review it, knowing that it was going to be a big (and controversial) title.
Online Galley sites (like NetGalley and Edelweiss): These sites are for reviewers and librarians. They grant access to e-versions of titles. Each of these sites has the ability to narrow down the available titles by genre/topic/publisher, so that makes it manageable. From there, I often go by author recognition/cover/release date to see what books I might consider reviewing. Since I am only one person, I am limited to the number of books I can review in one week. There have been times when I have done up to three, but I prefer to keep it at one or two. This means that once I choose some possible books for any given week, I stop requesting titles for that week, hoping that one of the books I have already chosen will be strong enough to merit a review. This can backfire, but one has to create a cutoff at some point.
Notice that I said cover design. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes (especially for debut authors), I make a decision based on cover design. I am certain that I am missing some great titles this way, but hopefully if that is the case, I will hear about them in another way. (Example, I passed on Kristi Belcamino’s Blessed are the Dead because I hated the cover design. Then I met Kristi, was told by various folks that the book was excellent, and noticed that future cover designs were improving. I gave the book a shot, loved it, and reviewed it (in one of the rare cases where I posted a review outside the artificial one month review window I have set for the blog).
Conventions: It goes without saying that conferences strongly influence potential reviews on the blog. I regularly attend Bouchercon and/or Malice Domestic. There are countless other conferences of interest as well. Meeting an author or seeing them interact on a panel can cause me to try a book that I might otherwise have passed on. Also, the swag bags at these conventions are often filled with advanced copies of books the publishers are excited about. (Hint: If you are willing to volunteer to help at these cons, you are often given added perks, so don’t miss out on that opportunity. It’s also the best way to meet new people who will become future friends).
Word-of-Mouth: I am fortunate to know many folks in the crime fiction industry – Authors, booksellers, publicists, and fans. Many of them know my tastes via the blog. They have no problem saying “have you read so and so?” Since they are blog followers, I know that typically, they are trying to steer me in the right direction to something I might otherwise have missed. Many books I review come to me this way. Please, share the news about books you love. That is how word-of-mouth momentum works. If you look at a career like Louise Penny’s, you will see that in the beginning, she was selling books almost solely on the endorsements of early readers. Once that momentum began, there was no stopping it and she is now a New York Times bestseller.
So, that’s it in a nutshell. There are many another factors that can influence the choices I make, but I try to be as willing to help new authors as I am the already established. But one blog can only do so much. If you are a fan and want to help out, consider starting a blog, leaving reviews on other sites, or just spreading the name of new books you have enjoyed. I know the authors will appreciate it.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Reds and lovely readers, how to you choose what to read next from your TBR pile? Is there a blogger or reviewer out there you rely on? Do you blog and/or review?
Tell us in the comments!
Tell us in the comments!