Cheryl C. Malandrinos is the Editor of The Book Connection, a blog focusing on reviews, author interviews, and on hosting virtual book tour guests. She's also a reviewer for The Muse Book Reviews. Cheryl is currently looking for more reviewers to join her blog, especially for those who review ebooks. A virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your Book Promotion, Cheryl sees a bright future for review bloggers and calls the Internet a 'huge promotion playground' for publicists and authors.
Thanks for this interview, Cheryl. How long have you been reviewing?
Hard to believe, but I’ve been reviewing books for two years now. I began by reviewing books for my own enjoyment at my Aspiring Author blog. Then I joined The Muse Book Reviews in 2007. In July of last year, I was interviewing so many authors and reviewing so many books that I began The Book Connection – which is where I post all my reviews now.
How many books do you review a month?
This all depends, because in addition to reviewing and interviewing authors at The Book Connection, I am also a virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your Book Promotion. In addition, I’ll review just about anything and some months I have more children’s books -which can be read quicker than novels. So, it can range anywhere between two and ten books a month.
Are you currently recruiting more reviewers? If so, what are your guidelines?
This is something that I’ve considered for a while now, because I would like to grow the site and offer more to my readers. If anyone is interested in reviewing for The Book Connection, he or she can contact me at cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com. Place “The Book Connection” in the subject line and include a copy of a recent review, any publishing credits, what genres he/she is interested in reviewing, and if he/she accepts eBooks.
I encourage anyone who is interested in becoming a reviewer for The Book Connection to view the site and see what types of reviews are there. While I don’t expect everyone to write in a similar style, I expect a review to provide enough information to the reader to allow her to make an informed buying decision. A synopsis and three sentences doesn’t cut it.
How should an author contact you about a review request? Do you review e-books as well?
Authors may contact me at cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com with “Book Review Request” in the subject line if they are interested in having The Book Connection review their book. The only thing I don’t review is pornography. I don’t accept eBooks any longer. These books tend to get buried at the bottom of the “to be read” pile. After spending eight to ten hours a day on the PC, I don’t really want to subject my body to reading a 200+ page book on it. Besides, I read in the tub to relax before bedtime, and I haven’t found a PC or eReader that can work under those conditions. This could change, however, if additional reviewers come onboard.
How do you select the books you review? How do you determine which reviews to post on your site?
Everyone has their own personal tastes, but I consider each request by the synopsis sent to me. If the author’s website is listed in the email, I will go out to the site to find more information and an excerpt. I always post a review at my site—good or not so good. I have a fancy for Christian and inspirational fiction and non-fiction, memoirs, romance, children’s books, and historical fiction. I enjoy reading about the American Civil and Revolutionary wars, so books set during these time periods are ones I make a point to look for.
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?
I believe this comes down to some readers being easier to please than others. I’ve gone to review sites and thought, “Does she like every book she reads?” But I’ve also gone to review sites and thought, “Does this person like anything he reads?” No book is going to be all good or all bad. There are going to be things you like and aspects you don’t really care for. A good reviewer can combine those things and provide a reader with a basis for a sound buying decision. As for negative reviews, I’ve had to write them; but once again no book is going to be filled with flaws and have not even one redeeming factor. I mention both in my reviews and I do so without being brutal. I’ve read some reviews and wondered if the reviewer is a sadist. Nothing is served by ripping an author’s book to shreds. Give readers some credit; they don’t need biting marks from a reviewer to learn the areas where the book failed to meet a person’s expectations.
There was a lot of controversy last year between print publication reviewers and online bloggers. In your opinion, what defines a ‘legitimate’ reviewer?
A reviewer is a reviewer. Now, some might carry more weight than others, but a review that highly recommends an author’s book, whether it comes from the New York Times or an online review site, is still a feather in an author’s cap.
What is your stand on paid reviews?
I don’t know how sites get away with this. There are so many book review sites out there that review books for free. Why would an author pay for one? Do the words, “I highly recommend this book,” sound better coming from a paid site than a free one? I don’t believe the reader cares one way or the other as long as she doesn’t end up wasting money on a book that isn’t what she expected.
Do you think it’s okay for reviewers to resell the books they review? What about Advance Review Copies?
This is basically getting paid for a review and I think I’ve made my thoughts clear on that one.
What are the most common mistakes amateur reviewers make?
Giving away too much of the story or not providing enough information for the reader to make a sound buying decision. I’ve actually almost done the first one myself. When I get excited over a book I’ve just read, I want to tell the world about it. But a few times I’ve looked over my review again and said, “You can’t tell them that!”
With so many major newspapers getting rid of their book review sections, how do you see the future of online review sites?
Since online review sites are a big part of the virtual book tour business, I say that these sites are going to become more and more important to publicists and authors in the future. Publicists and authors are really in tune with how to reach a wide audience, and therefore, the Internet has become a huge promotion playground for them.
Do you keep the author’s feelings in mind when you review?
Not really. I mean, I don’t write scathing reviews, but only because I don’t believe they serve a purpose; not because I’m concerned with hurting the author’s feelings.
What promotional opportunities does your site offer authors?
The Book Connection also interviews authors and occasionally has guest bloggers. When I have time, I provide updated news about some of my former clients from Pump Up Your Book Promotion.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a reviewer?
I am given the chance to discover many talented writers who I never would have found otherwise. I look forward to following their careers.
Is there anything else you would like to say about you or The Book Connection?
The Book Connection has grown a lot in the past year. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished. I encourage readers and writers to check us out and see what we have to offer.