This blog is a resource for readers who want to read about books and writers and writing. I'll be posting brief introductions to the sites and the blogs I'll be featuring, together with links so that you can fly straight there through the miracle of the Internet. But don't forget to come back!
Foreword Reviews is one of the oldest online review sites, having been founded in 1998 as a trade review journal aimed at the independent, alternative, university and self-published markets. It's now distributed quarterly to 7500 libraries and booksellers and has a presence on newsstands as well.
What does it offer the reader? To begin with, of course, it offers reviews. The first menu item is 'Book reviews' and there is a list of recently-reviewed works. The reviews are thorough and show that the reviewers have taken some time to analyse what they're reading instead of simply giving an emotional response to whether they did or didn't like the book.
Interestingly, there appear to be two levels of reviews: the first is a straightforward review of new books submitted to them. The second is a so-called 'Clarion' review of books that are older or haven't been considered for the standard review. This type of review costs an author $499, but from what I see that doesn't guarantee the author an easy ride - the first book currently on the list gets only 3 out of 5 stars and is critiqued for its number of typos. This leads you to believe that the reviewers aren't just giving kudos for money, which is a Good Thing.
Elsewhere the site has Features, a Blog, and an opportunity for writers to enter the site's Indiefab competition. There's lots for both readers and writers to get their teeth into, and the site is nicely designed using large images and a simple navigation system. One criticism I would level is that the site does occasionally take a while to load the next page - something that is acknowledged by the system when it offers a dialogue saying: 'Taking too long? Try again or Cancel this request.' I'm not sure I've ever seen this elsewhere and it suggests it's a besetting problem that perhaps the designers should sort out.
Having said that, it's well worth a visit for the range of honest reviews and interesting book-related features.
The home page for the site is here: Foreword Reviews.
Ascribe is a site that has been developed to provide readers with an introduction to the best independent novels.
To this end, they ensure that only books that have been vetted or supported in some way by industry professionals are promoted on the site. As they say in their introduction: "You can guarantee that every novel here has been recommended by somebody in the book trade."
What this means in practice is that before writers can upload their books to the site, they must have some kind of testament to the book's quality from a traditionally-published author, an agent, a literary consultant or a professional editor earning their living at least in part from the fiction trade. Note that so far, the site only promotes novels.
As a reader, you can search for books by author name or category, and if you want to get more involved there's a blog and a newsletter, together with sections highlighting current news and forthcoming events. The site design is clean and easy to navigate and is without any intrusive advertising or links to other sites.
Most book-promotion sites rely on Amazon review ratings as their barrier to entry - Ascribe is trying to raise the quality of their offerings by using the standards of the traditional publishing industry as their kitemark of excellence. The argument is that many books fail to find a publisher for reasons other than that they're simply 'not good enough': publishers' lists in certain genres can be oversubscribed; agents are overworked; the current market isn't interested in your kind of book ... and so on. Ascribe is taking the view that good books should be allowed to find their audiences, and this site will surely help both readers and writers achieve that end.
The home page for Ascribe is here.
According to the 'About' page on Angie's Diary, the site is a result of the owner's good fortune in winning a national lottery. This meant she could indulge her love of writing, cooking and wine. And why not!
This probably explains the diverse nature of the site. There are sections devoted to, amongst other things, Beauty & Health, Poetry, Psychology and Writing, as well as many sub-divisions within each of those. The site's stated brief is to be: "A news and entertainment web site that combines original stories and essays with news on art, politics, technology, culture, and copywriting."
As far as the writing content is concerned, there is "Day-to-day fresh content, Book of the Week publications, and quarterly Short Story Writing Contests with a large Prize Pool."
The benefits to readers are numerous: there are opportunities to read excerpts from a whole range of books, including poetry, and also to be entertained or enlightened by articles on subjects from the Economy to Religion and Science. For aspiring writers, there is a section devoted entirely to 'how-to' articles to help you improve your craft.
The only problem with this site, as I see it, is that there's so much to read you might never get anything else done!
The home page for the site is here: Angie's Diary.
Readers in the Know is a site that will prove extremely useful for both readers and authors.
It's been set up by someone who is both an author and an IT professional, and it shows in the design of the site - its functionality - and in its practicality: it really serves a useful function.
The impulse behind the site was to create a space where readers could nominate the kinds of books they were interested in, then be told when promotions or events relating to their chosen fields were approaching. In that way they would learn in advance when a particular book was about to be promoted - probably at a cheaper price - or when a favoured author was organising an event of some kind, whether it was a personal appearance or a blog tour, for example. This means also that authors can identify when they're promoting a book beyond the Amazon eco-system, simply by describing it in their events calendar. These events and promotions are then listed on the Home page of Readers in the Know in a kind of newsfeed so that readers are constantly advised on upcoming events.
Another key features of the site is that authors can identify all the markets that their books appear in on Amazon, and the formats in which the books are published. This means that no matter what country a reader happens to be in, they're informed of the correct price and directed to the correct site to purchase it. Most book promotion sites link you to the Amazon US site, so that if you happen to live elsewhere in the world you have to do some scrabbling around both to find the book and then check out its price. Readers in the Know does all that for you.
All in all, this is one of the most professional book promotion sites I've seen. It's properly designed, has bags of functionality for both readers and writers, and contains lots of information to help readers make up their minds whether to purchase or not. There is even a series of comprehensive videos explaining how the site works, both for authors and readers. It's been well thought-out from beginning to end. Very good job.
The Home page is here: Readers in the Know.
PS If you're an author or publisher signing up to the site, you can use the following code when setting up to earn £10 of advertisement credits: GXBECWSB.
Time for another look at a site that caters for crime writing fans - and a good site it is, too.
Crime Thriller Hound is a British site that offers a number of approaches to crime writing, depending on how interested you are in the genre to begin with. For example, its Home page offers recommendations within a number of categories - at the moment of writing it's providing links to two top-ten lists: American Crime Fighting Duos and British Crime Fighting Duos. Below that is a panel suggesting Highly Recommended Stand-Alones and below that are three further categorizations - 5 Star Reads, Contemporary and Classic ... with even more links below.
All this is well and good and more or less typical of sites promoting genre reads. There are a couple of differences, however. First, the books being suggested are not all indie or self-published, but commercial publications. Secondly, there are in-depth features about many different aspects of crime-writing, for example Crime Fiction's Golden Year and Greatest Living Crime Writers. There's also an A-Z directory and, for me, one of the outstanding features - videos of crime writers talking about their craft. The use of videos and short films is rare on book sites and it's good to see someone taking advantage of the possibility to show writers discussing their characters and their craft.
So don't be misled by the sub-title of the site - Tracking the best ebooks: it's a lot more than that.
Crime Thriller Hound can be found here: Crime Thriller Hound.
The Midlist is a site for readers that tries to "ensure that readers have an easy way to discover great books by talented authors who are bestseller-quality, even if they haven't broken through the ranks to be a bestseller yet."
What this means in practice is two things: first, that writers can't pay to have their books featured on the site, unlike the case with many sites that will promote an author's book for a fee; secondly, The Midlist exercises a degree of quality control by choosing books using "a combination of literary merit, reader activity around the title, and social brand engagement around the author". In other words, books are chosen because The Midlist believes they are worthy of wider promotion because of the intrinsic quality of the work itself and the professionalism of the author.
The Midlist is a spin-off from Libboo, an enterprise that has been going for several years as an author-focused initiative. By creating The Midlist, the organisation has 'crossed to the other side,' so to speak, in its attempt to engage primarily with readers, offering them excellent quality literature through an email subscription.
It's interesting - and perhaps rare - to find a site that seems truly dedicated to helping both authors and readers. Good authors with best-selling potential can find a place to promote their work, while readers receive one email a day with only two promoted books on it, though from a variety of genres. It has the feel of a professional and dedicated site and should be warmly supported.
The home page for subscriptions is here: The Midlist.
I'm ashamed to say that I've only just become aware of The Millions, 'an online magazine offering coverage on books, arts, and culture since 2003'.
This is a rare internet site that takes its literature seriously, and is aimed at readers who have wide and catholic tastes. One of the other reasons it's a rarity is that there is an actual staff, who are paid for their work in real money. Together with guest writers and reviewers, they produce articles and features that are thoughtful, well-written and cover the whole spectrum of literature, both fiction and non-fiction, contemporary and classic.
On the site there is a main page devoted to reviews, with links to bookstores so that you can buy the books immediately; there's a page of archives so that you can browse previous articles; there's a page of 'lists', which are essentially the books that the site's founder, Max Magee, is reading or has read; and there's also a page promoting the ebooks that the site has begun to publish itself. You can also choose to support the site by making a contribution via Paypal.
All told, it's a site to get lost in if you're interested at all in books and literature and, I daresay, culture in general.
The welcome page is here.
Having looked at a Romance site a couple of posts ago, it seems only right to mention a site devoted to Crime writing - one of the other popular genres amongst readers of all ages and, it seems, nationalities.
CrimeSpace is a site for both readers and writers of crime fiction, and is essentially a social site. This means that members can upload photos, videos, blogs and other information as they see fit. It has over 4000 members and is a very busy destination, with forum posts and blogs accumulating daily.
Whether you're a reader or a writer you can have your own page where your activities, posts and discussions are gathered, along with any information about yourself that you care to share. There is also a Store which is powered by Amazon and contains books written by CrimeSpace authors gathered in one place, as well as links to other useful categories. So if you want to browse the Crime category looking for authors you may not have heard of, this is a good place to start.
Crimespace has grown substantially over the last couple of years and has introduced more functionality from the Ning platform. This makes it one of the most comprehensive sites dealing with crime fiction and a well-deserved winner of the Spinetingler Magazine Special Services to the Industry award it so proudly boasts on its home page.
You can find this home page here.
This site is in the form of a blog but focuses on free and bargain books for a number of different formats - not just the Kindle, but the Nook, iBooks, epub and PDF. This differentiates it from the many sites that just promote Kindle free books, bargains and Countdown Deals.
Karen Oland, who runs the site, also provides several useful services: she identifies books of the day for the Kindle and Nook (and for the Sony site, before it folded), and also provides links for coupons and cards for Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.
The final differentiator is identified in the site's sub-title - it also points readers towards new games, apps and music from a variety of locations, from Google to Amazon and Audible to Downpour.
All in all, this is an extremely useful site and isn't just a place that scavenges others' books to earn from click-throughs.
Books on the Knob can be found here.