Algunas veces se vira la tortilla. Después de años haciendo entrevistas todas las semanas, me tocó ser entrevistado a mi. Brooklyn James, autora de The Boots My Mother Gave Me y la trilogía de Vigilare, me pidió que hablara de libros y reseñas. Aquí les dejo la entrevista.
Ever read a great book, or maybe a not-so-great book, and had the desire to share your opinion? Book reviews are a superlative way to share your thoughts about the books you read. Consider the time you invest in reading, whether it be occasional or daily undertakings. Your opinion is just as viable as one offered from The New York Times. If you fancy yourself a reader, you are only a few informed steps away from donning another cap; REVIEWER.
Trust me, as a writer, we want to hear from readers. It's the only way we truly have to adapt/improve our writing and implement the necessary changes to please and gain our readership. Writing, most often is a solitary act. The lone writer, pecking away at a keyboard, fingers flying, concocting words in hopes of scribing a story to take readers on a journey. Once that work is published, that lone act, hopefully, becomes a shared experience, a shared journey, with readers.
At its most basic form, it's simple economics; supply and demand. Tell us what you want, what you like, what you expect from the books you read. Writers read reviews. Good writers, take heed of such reviews. Readers who review are a writer's lifeline. Tell us what you want. Give us your demands. I promise, we're waiting to supply you with such.
My guest today is Gabino Iglesias, a professional Book Reviewer, whose work has appeared in the Austin Post, San Antonio Magazine, The New York Times, Bizarro Central, Business Today, among a few other places.
Big thanks to Gabino for stopping by to share with us a few pointers on how we, as readers, can be a driving force in the book market. Through book reviews, readers can affect the market, making their voices heard, whereby increasing the demand for books they find enjoyable.
Brooklyn James: Say I’m an avid reader who likes to post an occasional review of a particular book that merits my attention. I want to sound educated and informed in my review. Basically, I want other readers to notice my review. I want my opinion to count. What is the basic outline of a qualified book review?
Gabino Iglesias: There are many ways to write a book review. If you want to grab someone's attention, start with a few short sentences saying you truly enjoyed the book or comparing it to other books you've read. You can always use a powerful quote from the text to get people hooked. Regardless of your technique, just make sure that your review has an introduction, a paragraph in which you give a synopsis, which can be the trickiest part of all, and then a good explanation of what's so great about the book. If you want folks to take your review seriously, throw at least one or two of the book's weaknesses into your review. There are no perfect books, and reading an absolutely flawless review will not make me buy it. In fact, I'll immediately think the reviewer is the author's mom, friend, sister or girlfriend.
Brooklyn James: How do I break out of the overused review, such as, “I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down!”
Gabino Iglesias: Breaking away from the classic "I loved this book!" review is fairly easy: Tell people why you loved it. If you can question yourself about why you liked the book and come up with a few honest answers, you're halfway done with your review. Think about what you read: What did you feel while reading the book? Could you relate to any of the characters? Was the tempo enjoyable? Would you compare it to a fast-paced movie, a creepy thriller or a tender love story? Was the prose poetic, telegrammatic, elegant or direct? Were there plot twists that you honestly never saw coming? Were the characters multidimensional? Did you laugh, cry or cringe at any point? Why?
Brooklyn James: Do you have an example of a book review, either yours or someone else’s (maybe one that piqued your interest enough to cause you to purchase said book for yourself simply based on the review) that would serve as a blueprint to a fantastic book review.
Gabino Iglesias: The more straightforward a review is, the higher the probability of me buying the book. One of the best book reviewers out there is HorrorTalk's Steve Pattee. He writes with absolute frankness. For example, take the first paragraph of his review for M.E. Patterson's, Devil's Hand:
"I always feel a certain trepidation when starting a new book from an author I've never heard of. Even more so when it's their first book and I am going into it completely blind. Usually, when it's not a book that I'm reviewing, I'll scour the web for reviews to see what others are saying. I completely disregard Amazon reviews because, let's face it, it's safe to assume that more than half of those five stars found on an authors first novel are from friends and family and can't be trusted. So I was a little nervous going into Devil's Hand by M.E. Patterson. It's written by an unknown author to me, I refuse to read anything written about it as not to skew my own thoughts and it looks to be self-published. To say that it has more against it than for, would be an understatement. Fortunately, by the end of the first chapter, I knew that I would be enjoying the novel, and I was right."
Brooklyn James: Lets talk about honesty. What are the rules about giving a bad book review? Is it best to practice what my first grade teacher told me, “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all?” Or if I feel compelled to state my discontent with the book, is there a more acceptable way in which to do this?
Gabino Iglesias: I think some people confuse honesty with cruelty. When you invest a few days of your life in a book you don't enjoy, it's understandable if you're tempted to write a scathing review. Don't do it. Move on to a different book and write the review a few days later. All my reviews are brutally honest. However, I think every book out there has at least one thing you could praise in order to make sure you're being honest and fair. If the story is horrible, maybe you can praise the author for keeping it short. If it's bad and long, maybe you can say the author had great work ethic, a rich vocabulary or maybe a good idea that was executed poorly. Saying "I hated it" is not a feasible option; honesty, whether we're talking about a bad review or a good one, has to go hand-in-hand with a thorough, concise and intelligent deconstruction of the text. If you want to tell me how bad a book is, I will trust your review only if you seem unbiased and show me that there are a plethora of weak points in the text.
Words are very powerful and a reviewer should use them well in order to get his or her point across with some semblance of authority. Believe it or not, most authors actually appreciate a methodical, in-depth review that points out their accomplishments and flaws more than a short review where you say the book is the best one you've ever read. Here's how author William Cook shared with the world my review of his book, Blood Related: "One of the best reviews for Blood Related so far, by the illustrious Gabino Iglesias. And no, it wasn't 5-star, but it was objective and fair." If you can critique someone's book and still be called illustrious, you're probably doing something right!
Brooklyn James: Have you ever found yourself in the position where you agreed to do a book review for a book you really did not enjoy? How did you handle that situation?
Gabino Iglesias: If you agree to review books, this will happen regularly. What's even worse is when you go out and actually request a book because you think you'll love it and it turns out to be horrible. Again, the only way out is being unflinchingly honest. If the author never again contacts you or you never get another book from that publisher, don't fret: There are more books out there. What you cannot do, ever, is compromise your integrity as a reviewer. If you do that, you might as well join the rest of the trolls who post ten reviews a day on Amazon without reading a single book.
Brooklyn James: How did you become such an avid reader and reviewer of books?
Gabino Iglesias: I learned to read at an early age. While television gave me images, books opened up new universes, in which, I could construct other realities. By the time I was 12 or so I was reading Verne, Poe, Hemingway, Cervantes and many others with the same eagerness some kids play videogames or read comics. Reviewing started a few years ago. I became a journalist, a man who shared information, and telling people about amazing books just made sense. After I moved to Austin and met wonderful local authors, reviewing simply became a very regular part of my life.
Brooklyn James: As an entertainment reporter, I’m sure you receive a multitude of requests from authors and writers about reviewing their works. How do you choose which books you will accept for review and which ones you graciously pass on?
Gabino Iglesias: I always rely on truthfulness. I know what I enjoy most and what genres are not my cup of tea. Thrillers, mysteries, noir, horror, bizarro, supernatural, biographies, well-researched nonfiction, surrealism, literary fiction, science fiction, poetry, true crime and non-genre fiction are all fine by me. If you ask me to review your romance novel or self-help book, I will decline because it could be a great addition to the genre and I will fail to see some of its merits simply because it's not something I regularly read or take pleasure in. I won't read your sparkling teenage vampire story or that tale about how a hunky ghost kindles an uncontrollable fire in your loins. That stuff is not for me so, for your benefit and mine, I stay away from it. Everything else is cool with me as long as you ask politely and don't tell me you'll send a PDF today and would like to see the review tomorrow afternoon.
Brooklyn James: Do you have any advice for anyone as far as breaking into the book reading, reviewing and reporting field? Either as a career or a hobby?
Gabino Iglesias: If you want to be a reporter, get a journalism degree. Reporting has a few different styles that you'd have to learn in order to write successfully for magazines, newspapers or broadcast. As for reviewing, submerge yourself online and send out a few emails. There are many blogs out there who get more books for review than they can read. If you can help them out and get a few bylines, you can then jump into a bigger website. If you can write and have a passion for books, go for it!
Brooklyn James: What is your opinion on networking sites built to bring reader and writer together, such as Goodreads?
Gabino Iglesias: Anything that promotes reading and discussing books is great. However, reviews on Goodreads oftentimes suffer from the same lack of depth as those on Amazon. I know authors that get awful reviews from folks that haven't even read their books. Sadly, these places also tend to become forums for people who think they're purpose in life is to try to convince other readers of the literary merits of Twilight. If you want to meet people with similar tastes and learn about new books, then definitely join one of those places.
Brooklyn James: Where can we find your reviews/articles? Essentially, how can we follow Gabino?
Gabino Iglesias: I regularly write and review for CultureMap Austin, HorrorTalk, The Lovecraft eZine, Austin Vida, The Horror Review, Horrorphilia and Black Heart Magazine, where I'm also the Poetry Editor. Most of what I do I share on Twitter: @Gabino_Iglesias. If you love books or have something that you'd like to see reviewed, get in touch. Until then, happy reading!
Great points, Gabino! Thanks for taking the time to stop by.
Now, for a recap to writing viable book reviews:
- Compare the book to other books you've read (give readers a sense of what they're in for)
- Use a powerful quote or scene from the book as an example
- Be honest in your review
- Tell people WHY you loved or hated the book
- Even if you loved the book, include a weakness or two - no book is perfect!
Read Gabino Iglesias' Review of Vigilare from the Austin Post: http://www.austinpost.org/art-patrol/book-review-brooklyn-james-vigilare