Why I Like Reviewing Indie Books

I like writing reviews. When I was a kid and my parents would take me to the movies, what I enjoyed most (besides the popcorn) was talking about the parts we liked and didn’t like afterwards.  What’s the point of watching a film, or reading a book, or any other sort of story, if not to think about it afterward?

Ever since I’ve been blogging, my reviews of thing are consistently what get the most views and generate the most discussion. I recently read an article that indicates my experience is atypical, which surprised me. (Upon reflection, I think the reason is that my other main topic was politics, and given the choice between a review and political post, most readers choose the former.)

Writing reviews is fun for me. Show me a work of fiction, and odds are I’ll review it, for no reason other than my own amusement.

That said, not every review makes an equal impact. Does J.J. Abrams lie awake at night thinking, “Berthold Gambrel didn’t like my film! How can I do better next time?” I kind of doubt it.

Gradually, (and I’m rather embarrassed at how long this took) I’ve come to realize that instead of reviewing things that millions of people already have opinions about, my time is better spent reviewing things few have even heard of.

When I review a blockbuster film, I struggle to say something that someone else hasn’t already said. Even if I succeed, it’s usually a point few people agree with or care about. But when I review an indie book, I’m one of the only ones talking about it, and so what I’m saying is instantly more interesting to readers, simply by virtue of being new.

Another aspect is that reviewing lesser-known works forces me to be a better reviewer. When I review a new indie book, I’m exploring uncharted territory. There’s no consensus for me to argue or agree with. This is quite exciting; because it forces me to operate without preconceived notions and evaluate the story as a story, without the baggage of hype and marketing and online buzz weighing me down. I think this is probably similar to the reason driving enthusiasts prefer manual transmission over automatic: there’s less getting between you and the exercise of your skill.

Given all this, it baffles me that more people don’t review indie books. I realize I’m courting disaster by saying this, because if more people did, it would remove some of the fun I get out of it. But I’m prepared to take that chance, in the interest of getting more people talking about my favorite books.

9 Comments

  1. I agree. The main reason to watch a show or read a book is to understand the theme or message. If the show or book doesn’t have one it’s a waste of time. Too many times I’ve heard the explanation of some of the action/adventure movies being it’s a roller coaster ride, just enjoy it. To me that makes it a waste of time.

  2. I love that it also allows a chance to give these hard workers more exposure. Like you said, a lot of times popular items have been talked about so many times- our opinions are just a drop in an overflowing bucket. For Indie books, we can really make an impact.

  3. I think there are so many demands on people’s leisure time attention that it’s a miracle our books get read. For most readers to marshal their thoughts into coherent reviews may be too much to hope for. Quite a few reviews are written by other writers. Also when reviews are part of a social media thing (e.g. Goodreads), they have a bit of a stake in writing them.

  4. This was a good post. I like writing reviews, too. There’s something satisfying about knowing that your review is going to help an indie book hopefully find more readers, too.

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