While I greatly enjoyed my time at rainbow con and on the panels SMP so kindly assigned me, I still felt totally out of place several times. Here I am a no-nothing blogger that’s been around forever and still never made a splash. I never cared about being a big blog -then or now- but somehow the concept of having a lot of reviewers or traffic makes the reviewer/site more legitimate. I disagree with this vehemently but I’m not immune to that perception.
I’ve been at this ‘business’ a long time. I’ve seen big blogs come and go. Review sites come and go and blogs get big and small. Most of the people I really enjoy in the review field are no longer reviewing with a few exceptions. Yet through all that I still feel my voice is unique and worthwhile.
I am be no one in the larger scheme of life and not even within the community. The past few months have been very tough on my personal life in combination with heavy training for the upcoming triathlon season so my m/m reading has fallen off. But I consider that the ebb and flow. I’ve been around for over 10 years and I’ll be around 10 more even if my reading stutters on occasion. So I’m not a big name in reviewing. I’m not someone on blog tours. I’m not a blog people have heard of.
In fact someone even said to me “who the fuck are you” when I showed up to a panel.
Which was fine because that was my answer to them “well who the fuck are you?” That said I feel even more so after this conference that I have a place in this field and especially in reviewing. Even if you’ve nerve heard of me (though that’s why you’re here right? So really even if no one else has heard of me). I have a unique perspective not only in reading tastes but also in my approach to reviewing. I have a reputation for being harsh but I think of it as being critical. For me that’s how I read. (Not to mention my average rating is above 3 stars, so actually I’m pretty nice.) On the reviewers panel almost all the reviewers identified as reviewing and reading by emotion primarily. I don’t do that. I’m too analytical from my work and personality to simply come from an emotional place. Not that either approach is wrong.
I also feel strongly there aren’t enough of these critical dissertations. Thankfully I think the reviews are getting more thoughtful but they’re still primarily about connecting emotionally with readers. Which is important, but not more so than a critical analysis. It’s the combination of the two that makes the most successful books and reviews. So while I may never be a big name or even a reviewer anyone has heard of … I’m still going to have a place. Maybe in a dark corner no one sees but I’ll still be here reading and reviewing what I want. If anyone is interested they can read what I write and be welcomed. Contrary to exaggeration, I am not mean.
Furthermore, there is this perception that “review blogs pop up everyday” and that somehow this is bad. Like there are only supposed to be 3 large sites that culminate all the possible voices in reviewing that should ever be voiced. Not only is mine different but no doubt the next ten blogs after mine offer a unique voice as well and something different from the next ten blogs – or so I greatly hope. I’m baffled by the concept that more review blogs is somehow a bad thing. I think it comes from the desire to be a “big name” or somehow the most popular site, with the idea that more sites just dilute the potential popularity.
However, reviewing isn’t about popularity. It’s about helping readers connect with books they might not otherwise have read or avoiding others. When I go to read reviews on books I want to read, I almost always read the negative reviews first but if a large number of people I follow on Goodreads have reviewed the book – good or bad!- then I am much more likely to pick up the book than if only 1-2 people have reviewed it, even if they rave about it. I don’t even need to read the reviews sometime, just the knowledge that many people have read the book and had an opinion makes me curious about the book as well. And since authors love reviews (well good reviews) I’m sure they adore new review blogs too.
Someone asked on the reviewer panel what differentiates the average reader from a “professional reviewer.” Well unless the reviewer is getting paid in cash and not free books, then they aren’t a professional reviewer. They can certainly act professional, and I would encourage that, but I would also encourage every reader who relies on reviews to contribute too. Simply be thoughtful about what is written. Consider how much time the author puts into crafting that book for entertainment and respond with thought and care. That doesn’t mean lengthy per se, just nothing thoughtless.
A community does not exist with only a few members and reviewing is not an elite, exclusive gig.
Not everyone has to make a splash to be helpful.