Welcome to the book blog of writer and creative writing tutor, Diane Paul.

Thanks to the publishers and kind PR people who send me books and releases about their clients' books for review. Press releases and review copies of fiction and non-fiction are always welcome. (No sci-fi, fantasy or erotica please.)

Due to the barrage of requests from self-published authors for reviews, I'm unable to deal with them all, although I'm sometimes drawn to non-fiction for the subject matter. And because I love print books, the smell, the touch of the paper and the sight of the words, I don't have an electronic reader or review e-books.

E-mail to: bookblogforbookworms@keywordeditorial.com for the postal address.

My writing website: http://www.keywordeditorial.com/

Friday, 29 March 2013

Book reviews and ethics

Why would anyone go to the trouble of reviewing books and even setting up a blog to do so? After all, a review of anything is just the reviewer's personal opinion. Reading is subjective. But reviewers are critical readers and members of the buying public; the more books we read, the more selective we become about standards of writing and good storytelling.

Freelance books journalist, Alison Flood writes a fascinating article in the Spring edition of 'The Author', the journal of the Society of Authors on the ethics of book reviews. Apparently some review bloggers are actually charging authors to review their books 'nicely'. I'm pleased to say that I'm not one of them and I wouldn't like my followers to think that charging for reviews is regular practice by book bloggers. Some writers have apparently admitted to paying for 'nice' reviews and/or bigging-up their own work in print under various akas, otherwise known as sock-puppetting.

Alison also highlights the tendency of some over-zealous authors to post their own, or friends' and relatives', glowing reviews on Amazon. You can always spot these by the excess of superlatives and overblown adjectives, something that, ironically, doesn't fool anyone and is more likely to deter people from buying the books. Even publishers and agents are not exempt from underhand tactics when it comes to getting good reviews, it seems. Amazon is trying to put a stop to it but quite how they will identify who is genuine and who is not, is puzzling.

With newspapers reducing their reviewing staff and review pages and authors being expected to do most of their own marketing, book bloggers are in great demand. I'm flooded with requests from self-published writers to review, mainly, their e-books, something I don't do, being addicted to the look, touch and smell of good-quality traditionally published print books and having avoided the urge to rush for a 'must-have' e-reader I will never use. I may change my opinion in the future, but for now that's how it has to be.

My life as a book blogger began during a slow period when I had time on my hands. I hadn't expected it to take off the way it did, I enjoyed it and I'd had plenty of reviewing experience as a journalist when I edited my own theatre column and I've been an avid reader since I learnt my first words. I'm enthusiastic about recommending books I rate highly and I do criticise where I feel it's due - that's how writers learn, from criticism - but if I really feel a book is poor, I usually avoid reviewing it. I do benefit from free books from authors and traditional publishers who ask me to review their books unconditionally but many of the books I review are those I have selected in bookshops and bought and paid for myself. Some come from my vast store of books built up over many years, for I review older titles as well as those just launched.

I suspect that paid-for, biased book bloggers are pretty thin on the ground but it only takes one or two bad apples to taint the whole barrel once the issue is highlighted and I would be sorry for blog readers to get the wrong impression about the vast majority of us.