Hazel McHaffie

Online reviewing

As I briefly mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m a recent pilgrim to the review blogosphere.

Now, I freely confess it, I’ve been overtly sceptical about social networking sites. Come on! Get out into the real world, make flesh-and-blood friends, explore life in all its richness. That kind of reaction. But since I joined Facebook myself, (on the solemn advice of those-who-know in the literary world, I hasten to add) I have revised my opinion: the two are not mutually exclusive. You can have warm touchy-feely actual relationships and still have meaningful contact with geographically distant friends or link up with folk from the past electronically.

The same goes for reviews. There’s more than one way to skin a rabbit. Time was when authors relied on newspapers, magazines, radio shows, etc to bring their books to public attention. A good review in a broadsheet? Extend the house; book that exotic holiday. A bad review? Reach for the whisky; stick pins in an effigy. No review? Empty the Prozac; steal into the nearest burrow, leaving a note. But with the decline of literary editors, the rise of the celebrity cult, and the increasing struggle of small independent publishers, times have changed. So it’s good news for non-celebrity authors hovering somewhat below the plimsoll line of bestseller. There’s a whole new review world out there accessible by the touch of a computer key!

And I’m not just talking about Amazon reviews. Everyone knows they can be written by proud parents, press-ganged friends, and even by unscrupulous authors themselves. No, I’m thinking of very readable blogs written by well-read, articulate bookaholics who give measured and honest appraisals of a vast range of books. Some of them have huge followings of equally avid booklovers, ready to pick up on the books that appeal to them, even occasionally add their own tuppence-worth. Great stuff for authors. As you can see, I’m full of the zeal of the newly converted!

But don’t take my word for it. Have a look for yourselves. A good place to start is with an exceptionally good example … or two … or four … or … Well, a few of my personal favourites are Cornflower Books, Dovegreyreader Scribbles, Farm Lane Books, Meandmybigmouth and Vulpes Libris (alphabetical to avoid playground squabbles).

But be warned … you could be gone some time!

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