Magdalena Ball is the founder of The Compulsive Reader, a book review site focusing on literary fiction and long, in-depth reviews. She's also the author of Sleep Before Evening, a poetry chap book titled Quark Soup, and the nonfiction work, The Art of Assessment. A winner of both local and international awards for poetry and fiction, she's had stories, editorials, poetry, articles and reviews published in various printed publications.
Sleep Before Evening, which I had the pleasure of reviewing recently for Blogcritics, was a finalist in the the Regional Fiction category of the 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She's been writing for Blogcritics Magazine for about a year. In this interview, Magdalena talks about her review site and what she looks for in a review. She also discusses the influence reviews have on whether or not a person purchases a book, and — something most aspiring reviewers wonder — if there's any money at all in reviewing.
It's an honor to have you here today, Magdalena. How did you become a reviewer?
I started reviewing almost by accident some 9 or so years ago. I've always been a voracious reader, and enjoyed talking about and analyzing books with other like-minded readers, but one day I saw a call for reviewers on a now defunct website called BoxPlanet, and I jumped. It was Frank McCourt's 'Tis, and I was already a big fan of Angela's Ashes, and keen to read 'Tis. When I received a beautiful double book hardcopy boxed set for review, and was also given the chance to interview McCourt, I was hooked. The idea of feeding what was a big habit with an endless supply of free books, getting the opportunity to talk to my favourite authors, and even getting a small amount of payment was simply too good. When BoxPlanet collapsed, I decided to start my own site to keep things going, which leads me to the next question...
How did the Compulsive Reader come about?
I started The Compulsive Reader to replace the gap from BoxPlanet. Basically I simply hung out a shingle, taught myself to write HTML (I have some computer knowledge so it wasn't hard), found a host, and started by putting my own reviews up at first. I was surprised at how quickly it started growing, and how fast my email newsletter, which was basically just a list of new reviews on site, sent out monthly, grew. Now I have about 20 regular reviewers, over 8,000 subscribers to the newsletter which also includes giveaways and literary news, and more than 500,000 hits a month. So I don't have to write every review myself, although for me, the real pleasure is still in connecting with, and analysing a book. Compulsive Reader is now in its 8th year and we have 10 new reviews each month (but I'm quite a long way ahead of myself — there are about 40 reviews already set up and waiting to appear on the front page).