Thursday, October 2, 2008

Do We Expect Too Much From Sequels?

Lately, there are a lot of recent and upcoming releases that are either sequels or a 3rd or 4th installment of a series. One of the books that people are anticipating is Sister Souljah’s Midnight: A Gangster’s Love Story. This has to be one of the most anticipated sequels in a long time. Now that the book description is floating around and the cover is out, readers are already weighing in on if they will purchase this book or not. This brings me to this topic: Do we expect too much from sequels? To me, this topic is two-fold. On one hand, I like sequels if the first story was so compelling that I didn’t want it to end. On the other hand, if a book is a classic or near classic, then I feel a sequel isn’t needed because it will mess up the story. Sequels can be problematic because readers may be expecting the sequel to be just as good as or better than the 1st book. Readers may also expect the sequel to start exactly where the previous book left off.

From a reviewer’s standpoint, a sequel or other books in a particular series can be hard to properly review if the previous books have not been read. I have read some sequels without reading the 1st book because the author assured me that it can stand on its own. I’m here to tell you, that is very rarely the case. I think subsequent installments of books should not been released unless there is a huge demand from your readers to do so. Most readers also expect that next installment to be a true sequel and not a prequel or a totally different story. For example, when The Coldest Winter Ever came out years ago, a lot of people wanted Sister Souljah to make a sequel and have been patiently waiting for it. Now that Midnight is coming out in November, it doesn’t seem to be a true sequel but rather a prequel that delves into the early life of Midnight. Authors do have the creative license to continue a story as they see fit. However, I think that authors do need to take into consideration of what their fan base wants as well. After all, it is the readers that actually purchase and spread the word about your book.

-Radiah of Urban Reviews

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Frustrations Of A Book Reviewer Volume 1

As a book reviewer that also runs a book review website, there are some do’s and don’ts that I’ve seen over the years that I would just like to share in regards to getting your book reviewed...whether it's by our website or another review site.

Let’s start with the Dont’s.

1. Don’t Assume Anything. If a website says that they review a particular genre ( i.e. African American Fiction), don’t assume that they are going to read your style of work ( i.e. memoir, self-help, non-fiction or poetry book).

2. Don’t Request A Review Unless Your Book is Ready. Being ready means that your book is ready to be pre-ordered or purchased. Being ready does not mean that you are currently looking for a publisher or printer for your work.

3. Don’t think that just because you got a good review on a website that your author friends are going to get a good review too and vice versa.

4. Don’t Ask For Re-reviews. You should not ask a website to get another reviewer on their review team to read your book again just because the review was unfavorable. The reviewer has already done their job by taking the time to review your work.

5. Don’t bad mouth a review website that gave you a less than favorable review. You’re doing nothing but drawing bad attention to yourself.

6. Don’t Ask For Writing Sample Critiques From A Book Review Website. Most book review websites don’t do this unless they specifically say that they do.

7. Don’t expect the review website to follow-up. Remember, if you want your book to be reviewed, then it is your responsibility to make sure that it gets into the hands of the reviewers.

8. Don’t send every book you’ve ever written. You shouldn’t assume that the review website wants to review your multiple books unless there is prior approval.

Now here are the Do’s

1. Do Read and Understand the Submission Guidelines. For example, if a website says that you need to submit a full chapter excerpt in order be considered for a review, then that’s what they mean.

2. Ask Questions. If there is something that you aren’t clear on, then contact the person at the website.

3. Do Send Your Book As Soon As Possible. If a review website has an accept or decline submission process and your book is accepted, then you should send your book right away.

4. Pay Attention To The Time Periods. Almost every review website has a time period in which they review books. Please adhere to them.

5. Please be Patient. Just because you sent your book last week does not mean that your book will be reviewed right away. Most review websites tell you when your book could be reviewed.

6. Do consider advertising. Advertising could be very minimal in cost depending on the website. An ad can be visible to visitors to the website way before your book is reviewed.

7. If you get favorable reviews, please consider the same websites for reviews of your future releases.

- Radiah of Urban Reviews

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Please Respect This Hustle - Volume 1

We have just finished celebrating the 3 year anniversary of the Urban Reviews website. I can't believe how much we have grown in just 3 years with many more years to come. There are a lot of things that I've learned about the literary industry since July 2005. One thing that I've noticed is that there are a lot more authors and books out here that are fighting for attention. But with more books, there seems to be more problems. In the past few years, the practice of publishing a book evolved so much that just about anybody can do it. Sure, there are a lot of good books and authors out here but there are also a lot of people that aren't respecting the hustle. I'm talking about the book hustle. I'm not an expert, but I feel as a reviewer and avid reader there are a few things that authors need to do in order to make it in this business. See the short list below. I'm sure there's more but this is all I can think of right now.

1. Get your novel PROFESSIONALLY edited. This does not mean having a bunch of your friends and relatives proofreading your work and saying how great it is and putting up 5 star reviews on Amazon. Editing is more than somebody running your work through spell check and grammar check. If you think your work is so good that you don't need an editor, then that means you need one. (unless you are a professional editor yourself) Some say that if the story is good enough then the editing doesn't matter. This is not true. Bad editing can be the difference between a 4 star and a 5 star novel. You want to put your best work out there. There are plenty of freelance editors floating around on Myspace and Facebook. Do your research and seek them out.

2. Take Your Writing Seriously. Please remember that you are asking people to shell out their hard earned money to take a chance on your book. If you don't take a creative writing class, then at least get some books on writing. There are a lot of books out there that can help you with POV's (point-of-views), character development, plot, etc. There is nothing worse than reading a book that has no character, plot, or storyline development.

3. If you're writing a book just because you think it's a way to "come up" and make a lot of money, then don't do it. You must have a true love of the craft because authors getting six-figure deals is the exception and not the rule. Readers know when authors are serious about their work or not. And I don't have any hard numbers, but I'm almost certain that there are well over 90% of authors who have full-time jobs outside of writing.

4. Join a writers' group. If you don't have one in your area, then start one. I've heard from authors that this is a good outlet to have when you are writing your book. There are even a few online writers' groups. Ask around and I'm sure you'll find something.

5. Become an avid reader. How can you write a book if you're not an avid reader yourself? But at the same time, don't read somebody else's work and become a copycat writer either. Be your own writer.

6. Learn how to take constructive criticism. If you're a person who is very thin-skinned then the book industry is not for you.

I know there are many more things that I could list but those were some key ones that I feel are important. What fueled this list in the first place? This list came from the outcry that I've been hearing from some readers and some reviewers. People are just tired, tired, tired of bad books! We, as reviewers and readers, are tired of the same stale storylines. Either do the right thing and produce a good product...or don't do it at all.

All in all, just remember to PLEASE RESPECT THIS HUSTLE!

- Radiah of Urban Reviews