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Interview with Sharyn McGinty of In The Library Reviews

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Sharyn McGinty is the Print Review Coordinator of In the Library Reviews, a review site also featuring author interviews, spotlights, and contests. Started in 2002, the site reviews books and ebooks in most genres, including Christian and inspirational titles. Read their guidelines for details. McGinty is currently looking for more reviewers. If you're interested in joining her staff, take a look at the reviewer guidelines. In this interview, McGinty talks about her brainchild site and about the various aspects of reviewing.

How long have you been reviewing?

I have been reviewing off and on for nearly ten years. I started reviewing for Sime~Gen, Inc. and eventually started my review site. I closed that first site down after about two years. About six years ago, I opened In the Library Reviews.

Please tell us about your book review site. How and when did it get started?

In the Library Reviews is the brainchild of my best friend and I. We were tired of reading so many reviews based on a star-rating, as at the time over-rating was common practice. After much discussion, we launched In the Library Reviews on April 1, 2002 with the radical idea of not having any ratings whatsoever. As the years passed, a lot has changed, including adding a rating system.

What is the most challenging aspect of running a review site?

For me, it’s balancing the review site with everything else in my life. As a homeschooling mother of three, trying to find time to review and update the website is a challenge. I usually end up staying up well past midnight trying to get everything done.

How should an author contact you about a review request?

First I would suggest the author visit our site and decide which of our three review coordinators should be sent the request. Joyce Handzo (fourhandz@msn.com) is our Christian/Inspirational coordinator. All requests that fall into this category, be they ebook or print, should be sent to her. Safiya Tremayne (safiyatremayne@gmail.com) handles all ebook requests. Sharyn McGinty (inthelibraryreviews@gmail.com) handles all print books.

Second, be sure to include the following information: Title, Author, Author Email, Author Website, Publisher, Publisher Website, Publisher/Publicity Email, Place where the book can be purchased, Publishing Date, Genre, Price, ISBN, and Brief Synopsis.

How do you select the books you review? How do you determine which reviews to post on your site?

Our books are selected by the reviewers themselves. Our review coordinators know which genres our reviewers like and have gotten good at judging which books they will read. When in doubt, the review queries are sent to the reviewers and they have the final say.

Unless two reviewers are unable to review a book, all books are reviewed and the reviews posted to the site. In some cases, mainly when publishers automatically send all releases to us, a review may take several months due to the fact our reviewers are usually booked solid and have to make time to squeeze in a book that wasn’t requested.

Do you think there’s a lot of ‘facile praise’ among many online review sites? What is your policy when it comes to negative reviews?

As a rule, I don’t visit other review sites. Mainly to avoid changing the look of the site or unconsciously making my reviews seem to much like ones I’d read. As to ‘facile praise,’ I find this a lot when I’m looking up book information on Barnes&Noble and glance at the customer reviews. There are several reviewers there who do nothing but give 5 star reviews. In the Library Reviews has posted what some would consider negative reviews. We don’t review to stroke an author’s ego. We’re reviewing to let people know if a particular book is worth their money. If the book is badly written, we’ll state that. Even the author dislikes the review we’re going to post it. Otherwise what’s the point of reviewing if all we’re doing making sure the author is happy?

Do you keep the author’s feelings in mind when you review?

Yes and no. I phrase my complaints tactfully, doing my best to encourage rather denigrate their work. But their feelings don’t influence my reviews, even if it’s one of my favorite authors and they specifically asked me to review their book.

Have you received aggressive responses from authors or publishers because of a negative review? If yes, how do you handle it?

Never from a publisher and only once from an author. I passed on my reviewers’ reasons and apologized. This particular author proceed to bash the review site on several online romance novel groups, not realizing or caring I was a member and would recognize her. Oddly enough the majority of the authors on these lists denounced this author’s behavior as juvenile.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a reviewer?

Beyond the books? (smiles) When I receive a note from the author saying my review brightened their day or encouraged them to keep writing when they were doubting their ability, it makes me smile. However, the most rewarding thing is when the author takes the time to just say “thank you.” I realize it’s a ridiculously small thing, but reviewing takes time away from my family and other pursuits; having an author recognize that fact makes it worth the sacrifice.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Sharyn! I appreciate it! 

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.
  • http://www.myspace.com/margay1122 Margay

    Sharyn, I’m glad you only had one bad apple to deal with and I agree her behavior was juvenile. I think what some people tend to forget is that, once you put your words in writing, they’re out there for all to see and with the speed and the breadth of the internet, well, they get there faster and reach far beyond the point of original intent. I think there are two ways you can react to a negative assessment of your work: 1. The above example or 2. With grace and dignity and an open mind that will accept the fact and move on from it, and hopefully, grow as a writer because of it. If all an author wants to do is have their ego stroked, then maybe they should only allow their family and friends to read what they write. Which brings up a question: Do you have any advice for the writer who receives a bad review on how to handle it properly? Because, let’s face it, no matter how good some people think you are, others are going to disagree. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us.

  • http://blog.jodywallace.com Jody Wallace

    Reviewers and critics have a reputation of being bitter or failed authors — but I think good reviewing and literary criticism are challenging enough that they’re a skill very separate from the one that allows a person to be a successful author. Not that a person can’t do both, but skill in either realm is to be admired. Keep up the good work!

  • http://afallon.bravehost.com/ A. F. Stewart

    Great interview.

    As an author, I can say it is not pleasant to get a less than stellar review, but I don’t think bashing the reviewer is fair.
    An honest review should be a learning experience for the author.

  • http://www.karenharringtonbooks.com karen harrington

    Very insightful. As an author, I have learned there is a whole spectrum to the review side of the equation that I never knew existed. One of the key things I’ve learned is that one must not only have a flair for writing, but also the temperament to accept criticism. That combination, I think, is key to a writer’s success. Thanks for sharing your own thoughts and experiences.

  • http://www.perilouspauline.com Pauline Jones

    another great interview. I thought it was interesting she said she liked to be thanked. I was on a loop where several reviewers didn’t like being thanked. I was shocked. Who doesn’t like to have their efforts acknowledged?

  • http://www.margotfinke.com Margot Finke

    Mayra, thanks to you, I am learning more about the art of book reviewing every day. Your intrerview here, of Sharyn McGinty , is of particular interest.

    Thank you.

    Margot Finke
    “Rattlesnake Jam”
    + other fun, educational
    books for kids.

  • http://www.maryannwrites.com Maryann Miller

    Mayra, thanks for another good interview. This series has been so helpful to me as an author finding new places to request reviews and a reviewer to pick up tips on improving that craft. Appreciate the time and effort you have put into this series.

  • http://www.jessicakennedy71.blogspot.com/ Jessica Kennedy

    My great fear is a bad review, but facile praise does the reader nor writer any good. I fear a bad review, but cringe at the thought I’m just getting my ego stroked. Reviews must be diifficult to honestly do. Thank you for taking the time and risk (of angering) of supplying an honest evaluation.
    Thanks for sharing this interview. In the future the information will be useful. I’ll be seeking a review from Sharyn and waiting with bated breath.
    Blessings
    Jessica Kennedy
    The Differently-Abled Writer

  • http://www.christopherhoare.ca c hoare

    Interesting interview and also nice to see a site that has a person dealing with reviews of e-books. With increases in the cost of transportation — including postage — sending out hard copy for reviews will become increasingly expensive.

    Chris H.

  • http://zooprisepartyfiestazoorpresa.blogspot.com Joy Delgado

    Mayra,
    Another great interview. I agree that it’s nice to get that email that says ‘thank you’ for a review you have written. It makes the taking the time to write it worthwhile.

    Joy Delgado