Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Hank Phillippi Ryan:  Think of all we've seen that's new. New-new. Siri.  E-books. Leaning in. Blink. GPS. Twitter. Facebook. Blogs. (Jungle Red! Now on its 1,665th entry!)  Goodreads. Free books on Kindle.  Ten years ago? Not a bit of it.

We've also seen--the scourge of one-star reviews. Someone gave my short story "On the House" one star. (Let me say, just FYI, it won the Agatha, the Anthony and the Macavity). WHY did they give it one star? The brief but revealing review said: "Not a book."

Well, no, It isn't a book. it's a short story. But it sure did ruin my average.

Anyway!  Another new thing we've seen is book bloggers. An entirely new phenomenon...and one that changes our lives, molds our thoughts, and --like any fabulous new friend--introduces us to new and wonderful things.

So I could not resist--not that I TRIED to resist-- inviting our own special book blogger to take center stage today.   You know our dear Kristopher..he comments and weighs in very day..and he's pointed us is the right directions so many times!  

So here's our question for the day. Let's talk about reviews--would you write a scathing destructive review? How about just a minorly critical one? Really?


My name is Kristopher and I am an addict – a book addict.  But my addiction actually enhances my life; my consumption of 2-3 books a week fills me with knowledge and wonder.  My mind is opened to new worlds I want to share with others.  In fact, I never want to halt my book cravings, just feed them.

And so, in November of 2012, I started BOLOBooks.com.

And yet, my blog approach was in sharp contrast to the workings of many existing book blogs.  I just had no interest in writing negative reviews – why waste valuable virtual real estate discussing something I didn’t enjoy?  Plus, I have been around enough to know that simply because I didn’t like a book doesn’t mean no one will.  I firmly believe that every book has an audience and I do not want to be responsible for steering someone away from reading any book

So, I began with a tenet of “No Negative Reviews.”  If I don’t like a book, I just don’t talk about it.  Fellow bloggers told me I was making a mistake.  But I had to do what felt right to me. 

I am happy to report that the author response I have received about this decision has been nothing but positive.  Authors get it.  Even if it means that I might not review their book, they respect my decision and in many cases have stepped up to champion it. 

The relationship between book bloggers and authors should be a symbiotic one.  Book bloggers certainly wouldn’t exist without authors writing books for us to talk about.  And we all know that publishers are cutting budgets for promotion and newspapers are cutting the column space allocated for reviews, so authors are looking for alternate avenues to get any extra promotion they can.

Most bloggers are extremely knowledgeable about the genre they specialize in and many also have a background in the publishing industry.  We understand what the writing life is like and we want to help in any way we can.  Many of us regularly attend the conferences related to our chosen area of focus.  Say hi to us.  Recommend books to us – we are always looking for those “buzz” books – those same ones that you were asked to blurb for a few months back. 

This past week, I attended the BEA Book Bloggers Convention.  It was a one-day event held before the beginning of Book Expo America itself.  It was a vote of confidence when BEA purchased the rights to the blogger convention and they are doing what they can to remind authors that we are out there. 

There are literally hundreds of really good book blogs on the Internet; authors simply have to do some research to find us.  Make it a goal to seek out and read a few books blogs each week.   Some only do reviews, some post author interviews or host guest bloggers.   You will quickly find that you can tell which ones you “connect” with right away.   Remember those.   Reach out to them.   Let them know you appreciate what they are doing.   Everyone craves that type of validation. 

Let us help you in the ways that come naturally to us.  No single book blog can cover every book, even when limiting itself to one genre.  But an author who reaches out and expresses interest is always going to get a response.   We are here to serve you!

So, Jungle Reds and Red Readers, tell us about your experiences with book bloggers.  How can we help you better?  What are we doing right? 

And thank you for continuing to feed my addiction – one book at a time.

Hank:  Our pleasure! So, gang--what book blogs do you read? Who out there has a book blog? What do you think about negative reviews--should bloggers do them? Are book blogs a part of your life?

Oh--and the winner of THE WRONG GIRL arc is  Julie Tollefson! And (I can't resist because you all are so lovely ) doggonedmysteries.  Email me via my website with your address.   And sure--let's give away another one today to a commenter!

And did you see the CRAZY low price of PRIME TIME on Kindle? I don't know who did it--or how long it'll last--but here it is! Amazing.


  1. I read the Jungle Red Writers blog regularly, but it would take all my time every day to read all the other blogs that are out there . . . and then when would I actually read the books?

    Would I write a scathing destructive review? No. Even if I thought the book was awful, I’d think I ought to be able to find something good to say about it, to be constructive in some way . . . . Minorly critical? Perhaps, as long as it was a balanced review . . . . In my opinion, things like “I didn’t like it” or “Too short” are merely comments and should not be considered reviews at all . . . .

    With regard to the “On The House” review . . . . “Not a book” . . . really??? That’s the kind of thing that makes me shake my head in utter disbelief. After all, it says “Short Story” right there on the cover of the book . . . . ::sigh::

  2. I suspect Kristopher will collect quite a few books today himself. Here's hoping he likes the sound of mine. :) Thanks for introducing him to us, Hank.

    Back in 2007 when I began soliciting reviews for my first novel, I found bloggers like Kristopher to be just about the only willing audience, and a friendly source of feedback. Cheers to all book bloggers! I've been a fan of many along the way, including JRW, The Rap Sheet, Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room, Bloodstained Book Reviews, Armchair Book Reviews, a few with iffy-bad words which I won't repeat because Hallie doesn't like, and many more.

    I agree with Kristopher's "no negative review" stance. When it comes to another author's work, I stick by what Mom tried to teach me of her southern belle upbringing: "If you don't have something nice to say, say nothing."

  3. What serendipity today's column is! I just launched my book blog where I hope to share reviews, musings on books and writers, reprints of my articles on bookstores and publishing companies.

    My first post is an appreciation of the British author, Susan Hill (among other things, creator of the wonderful detective, Simon Seralliar) who has inspired me to pursue all those unread books languishing on my bookshelves.

    Although my blog doesn't focus exclusively on mysteries, that genre is my favorite, so expect to see plenty mentions of my current (and past) favorites. And click the link below and check out the "about me" section to see which Jungle Red I include in my list of favorite mystery writers.


    Thanks for highlighting the role of book blogs. I am excited to be part of this crowd.

    Katie Baer

    P.S. I am fortunate to live right down the road from McIntyre's Books, mentioned in Hank's post yesterday. It is, indeed, a treasure.

  4. I started a book blog a couple of years ago because I wanted to talk about books. I treasure my reading friends - we do talk about books, recommendations and quick reviews - but outside that small group, I find so many people who dismiss reading in general, who find my constant reading strange, not to mention what I'm reading. I don't post negative reviews either, at least of new books, though I will mention elements - characters or plot - that don't work for me. But if the entire book didn't work, and especially if I didn't finish it, then I just don't post about it (that rule doesn't apply to anything published before 1950 - the Victorians are fair game!)

  5. Welcome, Kristopher! We are most definitely of a like mind on this topic. If I happen on to a book that doesn't speak to me, I just don't finish it and figure I'm not the audience for whom it was written. And I leave it at that. There are reviewers out there - professional reviewers (there are some I trust, some not as much) - it's their job to review books, not mine and life's too short to bash books just because I don't like them as much as someone else might.

    Hank - I hate this about the one star review given for a reason that doesn't even make a bit of sense. I do not get it, I just don't get it.

  6. Joan - I completely agree, there is only so much time in the day, and books should get first crack at the extra time. But blogs are good for quick stops to see what others are reading/recommending.

    And I agree, "I didn't like it" or "Too short" are not reviews. Nor are "Kindle price is too high" or "Not a book".

    Jack - We book bloggers really try to be receptive to new authors whenever possible. There are so many books out there, that we all need to cover our little corner so that everyone gets a fair shot.

    And yes, your Mom's words were the same as mine and rang through my head when starting to blog.

    Katie - Welcome to the blogging world. You are going to love it. Such a warm and inviting group of people who are always willing to lend a hand or answer a question. Can't wait to check out your new blog.

    Lisa May - Thanks for stopping by. Will check out your blog as well.

    Who would review a book they didn't finish, right? It happens all the time. We have to do our little parts to rebel against that, so thanks.

  7. Thanks Kaye. I just don't get it either. The reader of Hank's WONDERFUL short story had to know it wasn't going to be a full novel, right. What could it have cost? if anything?

    Would have been so hard to just say, "lesson learned" and more on to buying BOOKS and not SHORT STORIES. Clearly stories they are not that reader's thing.

  8. Kristopher--thank you for visiting today--and every day! we so appreciate you! (Maybe you can pencil in MURDER WITH GANACHE for next February?:)

    Lisa May, I find it astonishing that people find your "constant reading" odd! But then we are all book crazy here...

    One more thing, as a writer, I really don't mind constructive criticism in a review. It helps me write the stronger book next time...

  9. Kristopher, it's so great to see you as today's guest! I've been to your blog a few times and I will bookmark it today so I can get there easily and more regularly.

    I agree that not every book appeals to everyone; taste in reading IS subjective, after all. Negative reviews, particularly on Amazon but even by professional reviewers, do NOT convince me not to read a book. If it's an author I like or a topic that interests me, I'll at least check it out at the library and see what I think. Friends and relatives know I love to read and sometimes ask me about books they've heard of. I would never tell anyone not to read a particular book just because I personally didn't like it. (I don't like football but I'd never tell someone "don't ever watch or go to a football game!")

    And Hank: it's laughable when someone downloads a short story that is ADVERTISED as a short story, and then complains "it was short". Duh. I loved that story of yours, by the way.

  10. Katie, welcome! So great to see you here! Off to visit the blog..

    How do you notify readers of new postings?

  11. Thanks, DebRo. Grrr. But so funny!

    Bloggers...does it change the way you read? DOes it take away--"the fun"?

  12. Lucy - I am making a note for Murder with Ganache now.

    And yes, constructive criticism can be helpful and I have no problem telling authors (via e-mail or in person) what I didn't like about a book and/or why I chose not to review it, I just don't want to put that out in the universe to steer others away.

    Plus, I have a really good knack for knowing what books I am going to like, so I really don't find myself reading much I don't enjoy. Happens most often with first time authors.

  13. Deb - Thanks for stopping by BOLOBooks.com

    Hank - In my case, many of my readers are subscribed to my e-mail feed which sends them notification when new posts go live. Also, I have just jumped into the Twitterverse, so I will use that to announce new content. Finally, I have a schedule so there is always something new on Mondays and Fridays and usually on Wednesday.

    As for taking the joy out of reading. It really doesn't for me. I am still only reading what *I* want to read. Other bloggers are reading other books, so hopefully it all balances out in the end.

  14. I don't have a blog, but am in the Amazon Vine program and recently signed up at netgalley. In both of those venues, I feel a sense of responsibility -- I chose the book and now I am *obligated* to review it. In Vine, that is literally the case -- you can't continue in the program if you don't review every item.

    There have been a handful of the hundreds of books I've reviewed for which I've had some scathing remarks... they were books that were barely readable because of grammar, word choice and continuity problems. In retrospect, I felt about the reviews rather the way I would about a restaurant where I'd experienced spoiled food: "Don't go there!"

    There have probably been another handful of "middle of the road" reviews -- the 3-out-of-five star group. Those are almost invariably books by authors I've loved to read in the past, but whose work of the moment I find particularly disappointing. Perhaps it's enormous hubris on my part, but I really think I can feel an author's passion for her work as I read... and if it is lackluster, one tends to get repetitive description, flat dialog, frustrating (as opposed to suspenseful) story twists, unconvincing and unlikable characters... It feels like the author is trapped and ended up "just saying anything" to try to get out. I try to carefully record my observations and I hope that they are constructive.

    It does work both ways, of course... Charlaine Harris' final book in the Southern Vampire series created a bit of a firestorm among fans. A large number were angry at how she chose to end the series (and were probably also just as angry that she made the choice to end it, if they had been honest with themselves). I was sad the series ended and, while I didn't think the book had the sparkle that most previous entries in the series had had, it wasn't poorly written in any way AND it ended exactly the way Harris had told us it would, long ago. I said so in a review, adding that they were Harris' characters and she obviously had the right to do with them as she willed. My reviewer rank dropped significantly as people spat out all sorts of nastiness, including what I consider to be extremely dangerous ideas along the order of "we pay her to write the books, she has to give us what we want!"

    And therein lies the rub in reviewing... how can the reviewer presume to criticize art -- as Kristopher says, just because it isn't to my taste doesn't mean it won't be to anyone's. So I completely understand the "no bad reviews" policy. Perhaps a blog would be a better way to go than the compulsory programs with which I'm affiliated, but I'll be honest -- I'm in it for the ARCs. Also, my volume is pretty darned small...

    And, by and large, I love *everything*. I mean, the new C.J. Box? Holy cow! And I wish the new Martin Walker book would never end... the food! the lifestyle! Bruno!

    But it is tough, and something I've been thinking about a lot, lately (sigh). If anyone has constructive counsel, I would love to hear it!

  15. I'm a book addict myself. No doubt about it. And I love Hank Phillippi Ryan. Not only do I like her books, she is one of the classiest women ever!!!!

  16. I got to meet Kristopher at Malice Domestic!

    As an author myself, I try not to ever write on my blog about books I don't like unless I have something extremely positive to say about it as well. I much prefer to talk about books I love.

    I started as a book reviewer many many years ago, and when I started writing books myself I thought it was a conflict of interest to continue publishing book reviews, so I started my blog. Of course, I blog about just about anything that comes to mind, too.

    And I adore Hank, and can;t wait for the new book!

  17. Hey Kristopher! So great to meet you at Malice--a fellow addict.

    I love your blog and I love the approach of nothing negative. I get that for the simple reason that I don't like conflict, so why invite any? As you say, we all have different tastes, with, presumably, more common ground than not.

    Keep up the good work!

  18. Oops! I don't know why it posted that as YANO. It's Greg Herren. Confounded Interwebs still confuse me.

  19. Kristi - Amazon kind of ropes you in with the vine program by *making* you review everything. Don't feel like with NetGalley you need to do the same. They are in the business and understand that occasionally, you won't want to review something. (Amazon seems to just want to up the number of reviews they have, not really caring what the quality of the review is). A blog would be a great idea for you. They are not that hard to set up and then you will have more control.

    Greg and Tammy - Thanks for stopping by. It was a pleasure to meet you all at Malice.

  20. I read book blogs but like this guy's idea of posting just positive reviews. I also believe every book has an audience. But I have to admit posting a negative review on Amazon about the 4th book in a recent contemporary/romantic suspense type series--that didn't fit into the series at all! I felt really duped into buying the book, when it was not a contemporary book, but a crazy paranormal book with bondage sex scenes!
    Taking two of your Time books with me to read on vacation...loved The Other Woman and can't wait for Girl!

  21. Aww...just pretend I'm not here reading all these nice things... ox

    And thank you, Vicki P! (SO surprised to see the sale price on Kindle for Prime Time! NO one told me...so I have no idea how long it'll last!)

    On Vine they MAKE you review? HOw does it work, anyway?

  22. Vicki H...oh, so nice of you! Thank you! xoo

  23. I started my blog to help me keep track of the books I read. My musings were short; not like the standard book reviews I've seen. This was also my way of getting the word out about the books I enjoy.

    I've since added the feature "A Day In The Life" which gives us a glimpse into the protagonist day. It's a fun way to get to know more about the character; the book and the author.

    One of the things I won't do on my blog is post a negative review, because as Kristopher, there's a book out there for every reader, if not for me.

    A few months ago, reading for my blog got too much so I had to step back and now I pre-select the books I will write about on my blog and enjoy the rest.

  24. Hi Kristopher! *waves like a crazy person*

    I love this philosophy, and totally agree. My mom and Jack's were on the same page. I participate in GoodReads as a reader and an author, and if a book doesn't resonate with me, that doesn't mean it won't with others. I only post reviews about books I really enjoy. Why put negativity out in the world?

    Cheers to all book bloggers!!

    (And count me as one of the authors hoping the sound of my new book appeals when the email arrives in your inbox shortly. :) ) LOWCOUNTRY BOMBSHELL releases September 17.

    Hank, that review is just wrong on so many levels.

  25. Hank - The way I understand it is Amazon approaches those who have posted a large number of reviews for their vine program. Since I don't post my reviews there, I was not asked (but from the sounds of it, I would have said no anyway).

    My hope is to drive readers to blogs rather than Amazon reviews, so that they can get a better feeling for a book without wading through "Kindle price is too high" or "the author owes me the ending I want" type reviews.

    I know that Amazon ratings affect authors as well, however, so I would rather see them "correct" these non-reviews, but I don't see that happening.

    Dru - I also read much more than what I blog about. The blog focuses on mystery/thriller (from YA to Adult), but I read so much more than that. Just can't write about it all.

    And Susan - waving back with equal enthusiasm.

  26. Dru, I love your Day in the LIfe! Great idea..

    And I wonder--you pick to be a book blogger because you love book s and reading..but then, does it become a chore?

  27. I started reviewing at Amazon. Then I loved to Epinions. This year, I've started my own review blog. I'm posting my old reviews there as quickly as I can plus posting new reviews, so quite a few are going up every day. Six weeks left of this. I can do it.

    I call my review a "review blog" because I don't just talk about books. I also review movies, music (mostly Christian music is that is what I mostly listen to), and Hallmark ornaments. Yes, Hallmark ornaments. Plus I've got the occasional food review and video game review or other such thing in there.

    You can blame Amazon and Epinions for the wide variety of reviews. Things were available to review there, and it helps rank to post more reviews so I started branching out. I know that it might hurt my audience some, but I enjoy talking about all those different things. Beside, I read maybe one or two books a week, so this gives me more to talk about. And it's fun. If it weren't fun for me, I'd quit doing it.

    As to negative reviews, I do feel I should warn someone away from what I feel is an inferior book. And I try to explain what was wrong. Did the author preach at me instead of entertain? Were the characters flat and dull? Stereotypes? Heck, I just gave James Patterson's latest Women's Murder Club book a well deserved 2 stars because it was a mess. (http://carstairsconsiders.blogspot.com/2013/05/book-review-12th-of-never-by-james.html)

    I can certainly understand the thought of only writing positive reviews, however. And since I pick what I want to review, most of my reviews are positive since I tend to stick with something I know I will like.

    BTW, Hank, I really need to get to the last of the Charlie books soon. I've had it for years and never got around to reading it.

    About Amazon Vine - in the last couple of months, they changed the rules. It used to be you only had to review 80% of what you got. Now, you have to review 100% and within 30 days. So yes, anything you get from them now has to be reviewed. I got Hank's latest from the Vine program last fall, so I am thankful for it.

  28. SO interesting,MArk! (And lovely to see you!)

    Do you get to choose your Vine books? Or does Amazon choose?

    HOw does Amazon choose the books that are Vine books?

  29. Hi Mark - I can certainly see the desire to review more than just books. Blogs that do a variety of things like that are great, as you get to know the likes/dislikes of the blogger and it might expose you to something new (like music or a movie).

    I am certainly going to stop by to see the reviews of Hallmark ornaments.

    And on the music front, I don't listen to much contemp. christian music, but I do love Amy Grant and her new album is GREAT. A return to her past, I think.

  30. If I had a book blog, I would sing from the rafters about the book I finished reading late last night -- Deborah Crombie's "The Sound of Broken Glass."

    I like reading reviews and blogs, but I know enough about my own tastes to be able to see between the lines and words of reviews and figure out whether or not I would enjoy a book.

    I don't post reviews, but often read them on amazon (for all products, not just books). You could write a great essay about the weird comments that accompany "one star" reviews.

    Thanks, JRW, every day!

  31. What a good idea, Kristopher. Your blog is being added to my reader feed lineup, forthwith.

    One of my books got a one-star review on Amazon, way back when, in the first year or two of Amazon. First, the publisher misspelled my last name, and had to post under two names, and then the first review was bad. But the review did not address what was actually in the book, just what the reader mistakenly expected would be in the book. It took a lot of steam out of sales from that source, and most of my sales ended up being self-generated at specialty consumer shows galore.

    I suspected the review came from a competitor, but could never prove it.

    I don't understand what the motivation for this sort of thing would be: scoring points? The Internet encourages bad behavior in such an anonymous way. It's too bad it actually affects lives and livelihoods.

  32. Hank, a few months ago, it did and that's when I had to take that step back and ever since, it hasn't become a chore. Having the feature helps.

  33. Karen - Thanks for joining up at BOLOBooks.com

    I hate that people are able to post whatever they want, knowing that they are anonymous. Without regard for how it might affect someone's career.

    Another tenet of mine, if I wouldn't say it to the person directly, it's not worth saying anonymously.

    For the record, I also really hate star ratings. What does that really mean if you don't have a context in which to judge it. My 4 star read may be another person's 2 star. That comes out to a nice average of 3 stars. But suppose my 5 star rating actually addresses the world building, character development, and plot structure, while a 1 star review says "I didn't like it". This still averages out to 3 stars, but not exactly fairly, I would say.

  34. Ah the dreaded one star review! I got the same punishment as Hank, I was given one star reviews for a short story because it wasn't a book. It was a free short story, you understand. Free, as in costing nothing. And it was a good short story.

    As for book blogs, I've just received a box of ARCs so Kristopher and any other book bloggers out there, let me know if you'd like one. You can email me at authorrhysbowen@gmail.com

  35. Hank, I don't know how books show up in the Vine program. Or anything for that matter (lots of electronics items, which are never offered to me, darn it!) I believe that a publisher probably pays Amazon a fee to be included. I know that your last book was there and there will be books by best selling authors and authors you've never heard of.

    As a member of Vine, I am offered a selection of items each month to choose from. A week later, I get a second e-mail with an offering of everything that hasn't been claimed yet. I can select something I am interested in. Or I can select nothing. This last month, nothing appealed to me and my TBR mountain range was getting out of hand, so I passed. So I have complete control over what I do or don't get from Vine. I think I've taken about 10 books in the year I've been a member.

    Kristopher, I don't know that I think Amy Grant's new album is quite a return to her past. Then again, I love her 80's stuff so much - the soundtrack of my high school days. Probably nostalgia glasses at work there and nothing will touch it. Having said that, I still am enjoying it.

  36. Nice to meet you, Kristopher! I've seen your comments around here -- can't miss a Christopher with a K!

    I'm just starting to explore the book-blogger world. I'm a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of websites! I want to visit them, but then...well, who to visit? I suppose I should start with book bloggers who enjoy mystery/suspense/thriller because that's mainly what I read and write...

    As for negative reviews, I swear some folks like to give one-star reviews for the perverse pleasure of lowering an average. (Like for your short story, Hank--ridiculous.)

  37. Reader feed lineup? Reader feed lineup? What's that?

  38. When I started work as a librarian I started a blog and will write posts about audio books and print books of all genres ... but mostly YA or mysteries with some non-fiction thrown in. I will only write positive reviews, so if I can't find ANYTHING positive to say, I won't write about it.


  39. MArk, I am totally going to look up a review of Hallmark ornaments. That is brilliant.

    So, yeah, BLoggers, about what Rhys says--how do you get your books?

    Oh come on! My first captcha word is RECOMMEND!

  40. I love books but I could never review them. I can tell friends about something I just read they might like, but that is as close to a review as you'll ever get. Why? I don't know. When I'm asked, on a scale of 1 to 10 where would you rate the product, the pain, the whatever, I just look blank. The sad part is I really appreciate other people's reviews of things but am unable to return the favor. People on Trip Advisor, Sierra Trading Post, etc have done me some really nice favors with their advice and reviews. And I really appreciate the leads I get on new authors and books to read from Jungle Reds, Murder by the Book and my own Houston Public Library. I will check out your blog Kristopher, with pleasure, but don't expect any feedback!

  41. Actually, Kristopher, I do have a question. Noticed Lucy/Roberta's mention of penciling her in for February...In general, how do I, as a debuting novelist (March, 2014) approach book bloggers? How do you prefer to be approached?

  42. Kris, You have never steered me wrong when it comes to a book recommendation so I'm extremely happy (and proud) that BOLOBooks.com exists! Good luck, my friend! I support you 100%.

  43. Mark - It is probably true, the new Amy Grant album doesn't live up to the 80's stuff (also the soundtrack to my youth). I think I am just loving it because it is so much better than the last few.

    Hank - A reader feed (RSS feed) is a method of tracking blogs that you love. Most blogs have a link on them to sign up for their RSS Feed. Personally, I prefer the e-mail sign-up method, but I know many would rather not have e-mail cluttered any more than necessary. I offer both on BOLOBooks.com

    As for books. Like other bloggers mentioned, I am a member of NetGalley and Edelweiss. I have some publicists who reach out to me directly. And also authors contact me or run into me at conferences.

    I should note that I end up buying finished copies of most of the books that I review on the blog eventually, but it does help bloggers to get advance copies, since we are trying to get the information out there at the critical time for the books success.

  44. With regard to Amazon Vine -- the program is a bit of a mystery. It started in 2008, I think. Reviewers join by invitation only. There is a private Vine forum and much of the discussion there is about how reviewers were selected to be invited, when new reviewers are invited, how many Viners there are... We don't really know! That was the year that I decided to try to keep track of which books I'd read by reviewing them on Amazon... I hadn't reviewed tons but was adding reviews pretty regularly and generally ran at about 86% "helpful" when I was invited to join Vine.

    Amazon issues a Vine newsletter twice each month to members. The first is allegedly a "targeted" list, i.e. supposed to be somewhat relevant specifically to the reviewer. Mileage varies widely on whether that is the case! The targeted list is usually only a page or two of items and what one person is offered can vary hugely from what another is offered. There may be limited quantities of items, so if you are not extremely fast on the draw, you may not get what you want. The next newsletter, a week later, is often 20 or so pages long; usually the first 15 or so pages will be books. The remainder are general merchandise and may include things like refrigerators, plasma flat screen TVs and cameras as well as slug bait, diapers, lip balm and homeopathic remedies. From each list, a reviewer is allowed to choose two items.

    As Mark said, the policy has changed and members are now required to review items within 30 days of their being shipped; speculation is that this will cut down on the number of books selected. It won't matter for me -- if I can grab a Deborah Crombie or Louise Penny ARC, they won't exactly have time to gather dust! Reviewers have access to a web page that shows their items to be reviewed with a countdown clock for each item... if you don't have your review in by the time the clock expires, no newsletter for you! This "100% in 30 days" policy is only as of May 15 and Amazon has already amended the rules a few times, so we'll see how that goes.

    One more mystery is how books are selected for Vine... members kind of thought the authors were given the option?

    Oh, and members are prohibited from loaning or giving items to anyone else... personal use only. They did change the policy to allow us to throw away Vine items; before that, we had to keep them in case Amazon ever asked for them back.

    And books are all print copies; no Kindle editions. Nope, I don't even begin to understand that!

    So that's Vine. It's pretty fun to wait, refresh key poised, for the newsletter to update. It's a little bit hilarious to get a really nice camera or set of pots and pans or even an "easy on your hands" stapler. And it is just the smuggest feeling in the world to score an ARC from a favorite author!

  45. Lisa - Thanks for noticing my comments and especially the K in my name.

    Generally, I prefer to be contacted via the blog from first time authors. Or you can have your publicist do this.

    Also, I check conference attendee lists to see who is going where. I often find new books I am interested in via those lists. So going to conferences DOES make a difference.

  46. I have lots of opinions. But I don't think that makes me a qualified, knowledgable or informed reviewer - of books movies, restaurants, whatever - so I keep them to myself. The seeming democraticization of the review system (online) has in fact turned in to an opportunity for authors and publicists to kowtow to a number of people who "goshdarn it, don't know a lot but know what they like!" And for lots of free books and the ability to make a few bucks selling ads or to have lunch with the author they'll be happy to tell the world about it. Reviews used to be written by professionals with some credentials and no conflicts of interest but I believe that is no longer the rule.
    I'm proud that my books have been well-received. But I had one so-called reviewer complain there was too much gardening in my books. Another complained there wasn't enough. One wrote that "after all the hype, I wasn't that impressed." Is that even a review? Or simply a comment to justify having accepted a free book which they will then sell on ebay?
    I personally would only post positive reviews because it's great to share my enthusiasm over something I've really enjoyed, but by the same token just because I didn't like something doesn't mean someone else wouldn't.
    It's called being a fan. Or an advocate. Doesn't make me a reviewer.

  47. Kristopher:
    I have always found your blog to be entertaining, enjoyable, and informative . . . I just don’t visit it [or other book blogging sites] daily like I visit Jungle Red Writers each day . . . if I didn’t try to discipline myself, I’d spend all day every day reading book blogs [very big grin!] . . . .

    What a true statement: the internet certainly seems to foster an awful lot of bad behavior . . . especially among “reviewers” who don’t seem to understand the review process and what a review is supposed to be . . . sometimes I think the review system at sites like Amazon actually hinders the review process . . . .

  48. Of course, I read the Reds blog every day. I started my own book-centered blog, "Outside of a dog, a book is . . ." (the link is at end of this comment) a few years ago, and like many other commenters here have mentioned, it does feature the Reds blog and its authors.

    I'm just reviving the blog this summer and will focus on book reviews almost exclusively. There are a few on there now and, no, I wouldn't post a negative review. What's the point of that?

    I'm so appreciative of the tremendous talent and effort of all you authors. Thank you!


  49. Hi Kristopher! Such fun to see you here! I always enjoy your daily comments.

    And very interesting about your blog. I do agree with your policy. As an author, mine has always been not to say negative things about other people's books (this is NOT the case with a number of authors we could name...) But if I really love a book, I will say so, loudly and enthusiastically.

    I may have beat Rhys and Hank on the one-star review--someone gave me one star on Amazon because "the pages were defective, they had rough edges." Some nice person replied that that is called a "deckled edge" and is considered a mark of distinction by the publisher. But that didn't remove the one-star:-)

  50. Ah, Kristopher, interesting about conferences. I was wondering about that too. (I'm thinking of going to Bouchercon this year.) Thanks!

  51. Rosemary - I can certainly see your point, and let's face it, there are certainly people out there who are using blogs only to get free books.

    But those people are easy to identify. For myself, I have a degree in English (which requires tons of critical analysis) and have worked in the publishing industry for 10+ years (academic journal publishing, so there is no conflict of interest for the blog), so I feel that my credentials are at least up to par with many of the "professional" reviewers working today.

    But no, I don't consider myself a "professional" reviewer. I am just presenting my opinion. I don't get paid for the hours of work I do on my blog. It is like a second job with no real benefits other than enjoying what I do and sharing my love of books.

    Anyone who reads my blog will see that the reviews there are fully realized and in-depth discussions of the books I read.

    Authors should be critical of who they approach asking for reviews. Check out the blog, see how often they post and the quality of the reviews.

  52. Deb - Thanks for the kind words about my comments here on JRW. I owe all of that to the wonderful content the JRW bring to the table.

    As for the deckle-edge book, that is the funniest thing I have heard all day. As if that is something you would have control over anyway (you know, with the print shop you have in your basement).

  53. PatD - Stop on by BOLOBooks. My peeps tend to be quieter than those here on JRW, so no need to feel like you have to contribute.

    Joan - Thanks for stopping by the blog. I can certainly understand not visiting all the time. Just stop by when you can. I also have some great author interviews posted.

  54. I'm a book addict, too. I taught middle school English mostly to 8th graders, and even at it's most intense, I still made time to read. Sometimes it was when I should have been asleep! After I retired, I've only gotten worse! Since I've had to be off my feet due to a slow healing ankle fracture (8 months & counting) I've become crazed, averaging 4-6 books a week depending on the length of the books. My Barnes & Noble bill has been higher than ever! I used to read several book blogs, but I've cut down a lot. I found that it was cutting into my reading time. What would I prefer, reading about books or the books themselves, dah! Now I only read the blogs via FB, like this only, Cozy Chicks, Criminal Minds and a couple others, Swiss cheese memory. Kristopher, thanks you for not writing negative reviews. Like you, if I'm not enjoying a book, I don't continue to read it, and I never review it. I do leave some reviews on B&N And Amazon. I do give every book I don't enjoy at least a chapter or two. Sometimes I'll put a book aside because I know I'll enjoy it another time. Sometimes I'll even read it. Thanks, Hank & K., I enjoyed this blog & sharing this with you. Forgive the typos, I'm having trouble getting to the beginning.

  55. Elizabeth - I hope the ankle gets to healing soon. But nice that you were able to turn that negative into a positive with all that wonderful reading.

    And yes, even as a blogger, I would say if the choice is between a blog and a book, the book should always win out.

    Blogs are good for filling those few moments in the waiting room or while dinner is cooking.

    Feel better soon!

  56. I read several book blogs every day. They give me ideas about books I might like.

    I buy books, at times I have won books and I write reviews for 2 different online locations. I will not write a negative review.

    If I do not like a book, it may simply be because it is not a book for me. Just as I like vanilla better than chocolate, at times I like a book and at times I don't.

    It does not mean that there are not readers who will fall in love with that book.

    I know how difficult it is to get a book written and out there for the readers of the world. I would never want to discourage the writer. I do not think I am being dishonest if there is no review from me. I am simply keeping my own counsel.

  57. I love the vanilla/chocolate example! It's so perfect, Annette.

    The whole potato-potahto thing came into understanding for me, actually, when there was book I LOVED and Jonathan just didn't find interesting at all. For some reason, at that moment, I saw that we both could be right.

    So there's a massive difference between "It's BAD" and "I personally didn't like it."

  58. Thinking about it, I realize I get most of my book recommendations from A) my local librarian and B) book bloggers. Two of my faves: Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Dear Author.

  59. Julie - Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Dear Author are both great blogs. They were both represented at the BEA Book Bloggers Conference which I attended as well.

    Many of the ones Jack mentioned earlier in the day are also blogs I regularly read.

  60. Julia - Typo there. I really do know who you are...and love your books. ;-)

  61. Hey, Kristopher, it's great to see you here in another guise from your usual in the comments. I've gone over to BOLOBooks and signed up for email delivery.

    I love book bloggers, not Amazon or GoodReads reviewers so much, but those with dedicated book blogs on the internet who give real reviews.

    I, too, have suffered the one-star review for ridiculous reasons several times for different books. Once someone didn't like the name of Skeet and stopped reading when she encountered it (it was on the cover of the book, as well as the first page, so guess they didn't read the book), but she spent 3 paragraphs trashing this book she never read. The funniest was for my cookbook, THE "I DON'T KNOW HOW TO COOK BOOK: MEXICAN--EVERYDAY EASY MEXICAN RECIPES THAT ANYONE CAN MAKE AT HOME. Says over and over again on front and back cover and in all the lit that it's a book for beginners or those who have trouble with ordinary recipes and cookbooks. Someone gave me a one-star because the recipes were too simple and there were dozens of cookbooks with more interesting and challenging recipes out there.

    But great book bloggers like Dru Ann and Lesa Holstine and Kevin Tipple and Smart Bitches and all the others offer a wonderful service connecting readers and books/authors. As an author, I appreciate it, and as a reader I do also.

    I don't count myself as a book blogger. I do write reviews and interviews/profiles of books and writers in two series on my blog--Books of Interest by Writers of Color and Literary Mystery Novelists. The series on writers of color began as a service to teachers and librarians I encountered at readings who asked how to find out about writers of color beyond the two or three published and promoted by the big publishers (there are more than that now, but this started a while ago). And when I added the mystery field to my circles, I wanted all my literary friends and followers to realize how many really fine books were being written and published in the field, so that's where the literary writers series came from. Which has featured Red Hank, Red Debs, Red Rhys, and Red Rosemary, among others--and will feature Red Julia whenever she gets free enough of writing deadlines to send back the interview. We are so lucky to have all of our fabulous writers on JRW!

  62. Linda - I love you comments on JRW and often learn something new from what you have to add to the conversation.

    Thanks for stopping by BOLOBooks and signing up. I hope that you will enjoy my content.

    My focus back in my college days was African-American and Native American women authors, so I love the purpose of your Writers of Color concept. (This was back when Louise Erdrich was first getting known and Toni Morrison wasn't an Oprah bookclub pick).

    So, I will certainly be popping over to your webpage!

  63. What a thought-provoking post! I was a reviewer briefly at Romance B(u)y the Book, before it went on hiatus. For the most part I would describe myself as a book promoter, and I prefer it to reviewing books. I think it was Kristopher who said he would never post a negative review and I feel the same way. I love mysteries, romance and other genres but I don't feel qualified to review books. I've seen too many authors hurt by callous (or, as in the case of Hank's short story, careless) reviewers. I've read reviews trashing books that I loved, and praising books I couldn't finish reading. The main thing I look for in book blogs is information on exciting new books and/or authors I might have missed. Although lately, the books often end up on my to-be-read pile for weeks or months. I WANT to read them, but I have a crawling grandbaby here during the day, which makes it difficult to sit back and read! (I can live with this. I'll get to them later, but she won't be a baby for long.)

    If any of you are looking for new authors to read, stop by Barnes & Noble's Mystery Forum. Anyone can read the posts but you have to sign in before you can post comments (yes, I know the process is glitchy - it's going to be updated and simplified before long).

  64. Becke! So fabulous to see you...when will our paths cross in person??

    I've had such a good time at Barnes & Noble's Mystery Forum! LOts of wonderful guests, lovely new friends, and great book chat!

    Linda, that cookbook story is so--not funny. And Debs, rough-edges on the pages? puh-leeze!

  65. Almost bedtime here on the East Coast. I just want to say thank you to Hank and all the Jungle Reds for allowing me to be their guest for the day.

    And thank you to all the wonderful commenters throughout the day. I am so thrilled to see the response to this subject matter.

    I'll be visiting as many of you as I can in the future. And you can always find me here in the JRW's comment section and over at BOLOBooks.com

  66. Kristopher--what a terrific day! Thank you! YOU are wonderful..and thank you to all the other book bloggers who visited--than you for all you do!

    Two things, no three.

    One, thank you for all the wonderful info.
    Two: the winner of THE WRONG GIRL is Katie Baer! Email me your address at h ryan at whdh dot com. xoxo
    Three: Tomorrow--what're YOU reading? The Reds want to know!


  67. Hank - I'm not going to make it to any conferences this year, unfortunately. Will you be doing any book signings in Chicago? If not, I hope I'll see you at a conference next year. Fingers crossed!

  68. I am an avid reader and freelance writer who happens to work with BOLObooks Kris--but I have never enjoyed the "mystery" genre, to be honest. Or so I thought.

    I'm in a book club--members rotate selecting a book--and I frequently go to the NYT Book Review when it's my turn, or to my daughter, an avid reader with similar tastes who told me I would love Colum McCann's "Let the Great World Spin." She was right.

    So what's the connection here? Last month, as a courtesy, I passed my friend Kris' blog on to my club--one member had told me she just loves a good mystery. Last week at work, I told Kris I couldn't join him for lunch because I simply had to finish my book club selection; I only had 50 pages left and was really enjoying this book, had he heard of it? It was "Defending Jacob" by William Landay. Turns out my fellow book club member selected it after reading his review on BOLObooks.

    A lively discussion ensued, during which I told Kris I didn't really think it was a mystery per se--more of an exploration of contemporary issues wrapped in a legal thriller format. But perhaps it was my idea of a mystery that was outdated. Fact is, I grew up with Nancy Drew, and loved her. But she's come a long way, baby.

    So here is what I have learned: a solid, thoughtful book blog by an experienced, intelligent reader like Kris/BOLObooks can not only help readers navigate through the vast options for our time out there, but it can open our minds to new genres--in the same way that my electronic reader encouraged me to try new material (through free chapter samples) I might not ordinarily purchase without a solid recommendation.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment here.

  69. Janet - Thanks! It is true, the mystery novel today is really more of a social novel, much like Dickens was in his day. All types of dynamics can be examined through the lens of a mystery plot.

    Defending Jacob, which I know Hank also loved, is a great example.

    Welcome to the mystery genre. Stick around and explore, there is much to love.

  70. Janet that's wonderful! WHat a lovely story.

    (ANd FYI--the lawyer in the book--Jonathan? Is based on my husband Jonathan!)

  71. First, never dreamed that Kris and I could save the approximately 5 seconds it takes to walk over to each other's offices and communicate via this blog page instead. Fabulous.

    Next, Hank, I loved that character! Reminded me in a way of my son, who just graduated from BU Law two weeks ago and is determined to be a Public Defender. Gotta love a little renewed hope in the goodness of principled people.

  72. Oh, wonderful, Janet! Contact me if you like--my husband can probably connect you son with just the right people in Boston if he needs pointing in the right direction!!

  73. Linda said:

    "But great book bloggers like Dru Ann and Lesa Holstine and Kevin Tipple and Smart Bitches and all the others offer a wonderful service connecting readers and books/authors. As an author, I appreciate it, and as a reader I do also."

    I very much appreciate the mention of Kevin's Corner. I have been doing this since 1998 and have written both positive and negative reviews over the years. Voted number five in the most recent Predators and Editors Poll (top four all do romance or horror while I do mystery and quite a lot more) I figure I am doing something right.

    As long as I can I intend to keep calling them like I see them.