I think this is remarkably unfair: if you’re a self-published author, you have to PAY Kirkus several hundred dollars to review your book. Why? B/c reading a self-published book is such an onerous task? Last weekend when I was up in Toronto I missed a great event: BookCamp, an “unconference” about the future of publishing. To catch up on some of what I’d missed, I listened to an interesting podcast in which one of the unconference organizers (Hugh McGuire of Book Oven) discusses how digital publishing is transforming our access to information, entertainment, and notions of “authority” or expertise when it comes to book reviews. Some people think bloggers aren’t skilled readers, and therefore cannot provide the kind of critical, in-depth analysis we once found in book review sections of major newspapers. Personally, what I care about MOST is the experience of individual readers. I just found this email in my inbox and it made my day:
Dear Ms. Elliott,
I am not a black woman (I am white). I borrowed your book from the library for my 8-year old son, because I believe he needs to read everything and learn about everyone. One morning, after he read it, he asked me if I wanted to read it (later he would tell me that he asked because he thought I would like it). I have read a lot of books and your book made me cry. I thought it was so lovely. It was sad and hopeful at the same time. You did a marvelous job at combining those two emotions. The illustrator also deserves kudos for helping get your words across. The pictures were so enveloping.
I am so happy not just [that] I read your book, but especially that my son read it. I am sure its lessons will remain with him. I hope to find your other books in the library as well. Thank you for such a nice addition to the literary world. I just wanted you to know that everyone reads your books and of course, that is how we learn about each other, isn’t it?
YES–it is! I’m so touched that readers take the time to find my email address and share their impressions with me. Sadly, she won’t find any of my other titles in her local library…yet. I wish the publishing revolution would happen overnight instead of taking 5-10 years. Some “industry experts” worry that e-publishing will flood the market with low-quality “books,” reviewed by know-nothing bloggers who will then steer readers wrong. All I know is, the system as it stands doesn’t meet everyone’s needs. I trust the judgment of the bloggers I know, and appreciate the service they provide–for FREE–to readers everywhere. Trying to maintain the velvet rope around publishing–“you can enter, but YOU cannot”–just can’t last…