Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mayra Calvani - Virtual Book Tour Today!

I am thrilled to have Mayra Calvani with me today and she will be fielding questions. Please read her Guest Author Post below and leave a comment or ask any question you may have. Mayra will be checking in throughout the day to answer your questions.

So You Want to Be a Reviewer?

Are you passionate about books? Do you have a talent for easily capturing the essence of a book after having read it? Do you often feel the desire to share your thoughts about a book with readers? If you answered "Yes" to these questions, then book reviewing can be one of the most satisfying, rewarding activities you'll ever undertake. In fact, book reviewing can become addictive.

I started reviewing in 1998. Back then, I wished someone had written a book with all there is to know about book reviewing. Sure, I found many articles on the web about the craft, which I read eagerly. But, I really wished I could have found everything in one volume. A sort of "user's manual"–a book that I would be able to come back to again and again and use as a reference, one that would reveal the secrets of the trade, the Dos and Don'ts, full of guidelines, tips and practical advice.

Though it may seem strange, there are hundreds of books on writing in general, and many on writing book reports, proposals, query letters and synopses, but practically none on writing reviews.

Like all fledgling reviewers, I made my share of amateurish mistakes, becoming all the more experienced and polished because of them. I, too, was guilty of the fledgling reviewer's disease–that of writing overly-positive reviews. Overwhelmed with enthusiasm, a good heart, and the desire to please everyone associated with the book, I often made the big mistake of forgetting the foremost person a reviewer must keep in mind–the reader. As I read and wrote more and more reviews, it soon became easy to tell a good review from a bad one, and to realize that a large number of reviewers, especially beginners, would profit from a bit of guidance, the things I learned from my mistakes.

The fact is, most people do read reviews to select their reading material. Reviews do have a positive or a negative influence on whether or not a person buys a book. Hence, reviewing is a serious responsibility, one reviewers shouldn't take lightly.

The aim of this book, therefore, is to offer some guidelines in a clear manner supported with targeted examples of how to write and publish thoughtful, well-written reviews no matter their length, type or genre, and to examine the essence of reviews within a broader spectrum.
This book was written not only with the aspiring reviewer in mind, but for the established reviewer who needs a bit of refreshing and also for anybody–be they author, publisher, reader, bookseller, librarian or publicist–who wants to become more informed about the value, purpose and effectiveness of reviews.

On a final note, the writing of this book has been a highly interesting, educational and thrilling ride into the slippery world of reviews for Anne K. Edwards and me. I hope you'll enjoy the journey and profit from it as much as we have.

So take out pen and paper, a highlighter, and get ready to write great reviews!

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing Copyright © 2008. Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards. All rights reserved by the authors. Please do not copy without permission.

Multi-genre author Mayra Calvani has been a reviewer for ten years. She's the author of the supernatural thrillers, Embraced by the Shadows and Dark Lullaby. A regular contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, she's also a member of Broad Universe, Authors Coalition, and The Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators.

Visit her website at: http://www.mayracalvani.com/. For her children's books, visit http://www.mayrassecretbookcase.com/. Mayra also keeps a blog, The Dark Phantom Review, where she regulary posts reviews and author interviews. To learn more about The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, visit http://www.slipperybookreview.wordpress.com/.


  1. I have a question. How can you say in a review that a book's plot line is confusing gently, without hurting the writer's feelings? I know how hard it is to write, and that book is the author's baby, and I hate to say anything to discourage him/her, but want to be truthful.


  2. Hi,

    Donna, thanks so much for hosting me on your blog today! It's grea to be here.

    Hi Bev!
    I can sooooo relate to your question. Being an author myself and knowing how hard it is to write a whole book, I'm very sensitive to author's feelings.

    I think that if you mention both the good and the bad in a tactful way, the author will appreciate that.

    For instance, instead of stating "the plot didn't work for me" you could say 'I feel that the plot line could have been made clearer if the author would have...' and so and so.

    I just wrote a review of a book that was a bit confusing in relation to its mythology, so this is what I wrote:

    "I found the mythology of the parallel world, however, a little confusing, especially the early explanations of the concepts of 'Healing' and the connection of male and female pairs at birth. For the most part, though, the mythology is imaginative and entertaining, and I had a good time reading about Nani and her friends."

    In this case, there was a lot of good to make up for the bad, so I stated that to balance it all. But I would have felt bad if I had not mentioned that the mythology was confusing because it bothered me and I know it would have bothered some readers.

    If the author in question is your friend... ay! That's hard. Maybe you should then tell her your thoughts instead of actually writing a review.

  3. Thank you Donna for hosting the vbt on Slippery. I always let Mayra do the harad work while I stand back and applaud her efforts. Your blot is giving Slippery a big boost for which I say many thanks.

  4. Hi Anne!

    Don't listen to Anne, by the way. She works very hard too and it was an absolute pleasure writing this book with her! :-)

  5. Your book sounds interesting. I'm wondering what you do about a book that you're reading that is terrible.

    I did some reviewing, but I was getting books that didn't make sense, that the writing was poorly done, and so forth.

    It was a struggle to find something positive to say, and finally, I quit doing the reviewing because most of the books (not all - there was a rare gem)were bad.

  6. Hi Katie,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    If a book is terrible, and it's the author himself who sent me the copy, I usually decline a review. Instead, I contact the author and as tactfully as possible tell him/her my reasons for declining. I recently did this to a first-time, self-published author and he was very grateful. The book needed some editing and was in no condition to get published. As it happens, he was already considering hiring one. By the way, when this happens, you are under no obligation to return the review copy.

    But if it's a book that was sent to me by a review site or publication, I'll review it no matter how terrible the book is, because this is usually what the editor of the publication wants. It hurts to give a bad review, especially if the book is very poorly written. But it's even worse to give a so-so review of a book that's terrible. That would be cheating the readers.

    I'm surprised that you had such a bad luck, though. What type of books were you reviewing?

  7. Mayra

    Your book sounds wonderful. I have been toying with the idea of doing some reviews occasionally, but somehow I feel I'm not qualified for the job. Is a reviewer obligated to comment on every aspect of a book and do a lengthy review in every case?

  8. Mayra,
    I'm looking forward to reading the book and getting great ideas about reviewing. I'll put what I learn to good use when I review Slippery Art of Book Reviewing for a stop on your blog book tour.

  9. Mayra and Anne...happy you are both here. Anne please feel free to jump in with any responses. As for everyone else that has stopped by...great...we appreciate it.

    Warm regards,

  10. I think a book on reviewing is a wonderful idea. Writing book reviews is harder than it seems (especially for dabblers like me).

  11. Hi Shari,

    Thanks for stopping by!

    No, unless you're writing an academic or in-depth review, you aren't obligated to touch every aspect of a book in a review, but only the most important--plot, pace, characterization, dialogue, description, etc.

    The length varies as well. Reviews in Library Journal are only about 200 words. Academic reviews can be as long as 2,000 words. Usually, 400 words is a good number for a review, certainly a popular number.

    Thanks, Lillie! I hope you'll find my book helpful and informative. I'm looking forward to visiting your blog.

    Hi, A.F! So nice to see your name here (A.F. usually hangs around Gather.com) I agree sometimes writing reviews can be hard--especially if you get 'reviewer's block--but it can be very rewarding too.

  12. Sorry, I left a message without knowning my daughter had signed in to her blogs... that's why it says 'melon' in the signature. :-)
    I'm back to blogger now.

  13. Mayra...don't worry about the Melon sign-in...you cleared it up with everyone. For some reason blogger won't let me delete the test comment...I don't won't to mess up the other comments so I'll just leave it.


  14. I have a question, Mayra. My Book Chook blog at www.susanstephenson.com.au is aimed at parents, so I do short, byte-sized reviews suitable for busy parents, touching on the appeal of that particular children's book. I haven't yet seen the need to adhere to standard practice with details like including isbn, publication year and place of first publication etc. ( I do include author/illustrator/publisher and year of copy I'm reading.)

    Which of these details do you see as necessary to include and why?

  15. Hi Susan,

    The complete information that includes author/illustrator/publisher/ISBN/ copyright, etc is mostly aimed at librarians and booksellers because they need this information to order books. Midwest Book Review, for instance, even requires a complete snail mail address, telephone and fax numbers of the publisher. As I said, this is aimed at librarians and booksellers that need this information.

    In your case, you write for parents who'll probably buy the books from amazon or their local bookseller. So I'd say author, illustrator, publisher and copyright would suffice. Of course, it's always helpful to include the ISBN. Lately, I've also stopped putting the complete information when writing reviews for my own blogs (it's so time consuming!), but I usually put a link to the purchase page on amazon or the author's website so the reader can find more detail information about the book if they want to.

    Hope this helps!

  16. Thanks, Mayra, it's good to read your opinion and that you're leaving out some of the details, too.

    Re linking to Amazon, do you have any experience with the Amazon Affiliate program?

  17. This is such an important book for writers because it gives them an insight to the behind the scenes action with reviewers and their sites.

  18. You know, I think this book would be good for writers, not just those who review. It will give authors a good heads up on what critics look for that is lacking in a story. I'm thinking about getting it myself for Christmas. Thanks, Mayra!
    - Kevin Collier

  19. No, sorry, Susan. I haven't looked into that for myself yet, but I hear it's really very little money unless you're a huge site with hundreds/thousands of books, like Blogcritics.org or Armchair Interviews, for example.

    One chapter of the book focuses on how to start your own review site and deals with this type of thing--Affiliate Programs, among a few others.

    To give you an idea, with Amazon, you earn about 4% - 8.5% per title purchased, depending on the amount of books sold. Here's a link with some info:


  20. Hi Lea and Kevin! :-)

    Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words about my book.


  21. It's pretty late here in Belgium, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to say goodbye for now (my eyes are burning from the nanowrimo! LOL)

    But please ask your questions if you have them and I'll answer them tomorrow morning!

    Cheers everyone!


  22. Mayra...it's been a pleasure and I'm looking forward to you stopping back in tomorrow...get some rest.

  23. Thnak YOU, Donna, for having me here!

  24. Very interesting, Mayra!

    Thanks for sharing your reviewing insights.
    And Donna, thanks for hosting Mayra and presenting this relevant topic.

    Cynthia Reeg

  25. Mayra, good advice here. I appreciate all that you have done to help inform reviewers and support authors.

  26. Thanks, Cindy and Marianne! I appreciate your stopping by!

  27. Hi Ladies:

    Sorry I didn't see the announcement of the VBT until this evening. Good luck with it, I'll look for the rest of the sites . . . maybe even on time.

    Chris H.

  28. Mayra, great tour! I also want to thank you for listing Authors' Coalition among your credited. Your page there will be especially useful to your many fans. (www.authorscoalitionandredenginepress.com). Just go to the members button at the top of the page and explore to see find your page and many of your fellow writers' pages, too.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Founder, Authors' Coalition

  29. How nice to see you here, Carolyn! Thanks for stopping by!

    Thanks to Chris as well! :-)



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