To review or not to review

As an established children’s writer my background is mainstream/traditional. My children’s books have followed this route, the criteria for success being paperback sales and acceptance by the establishment. Not reviews because it’s rare for young children to write reviews. So my attitudes and judgements tend to be mainstream and somewhat old-fashioned.
to reviewI am now writing for a different audience, YA and Adult, and publishing on line. Here, for newcomers, it takes time to become established, with book sales dependent on your skills at marketing and I have joined many groups and as a consequence have become heavily involved with both reading and reviewing. I have now quit on the reviewing, simply because I am don’t understand the expected on-line criteria for judging a book.

 The rules I apply to all books, whether traditionally published or not, are broken into 4 categories: presentation, linguistic ability, (grammar and style), a credible and cohesive story line, and general enjoyment.
Should I continue in this way? Should I judge an Ebook at the same level as a paperback traditionally published? I honestly don’t know. For instance, if the typesetting is poor, do I ignore and still give 4* because the story is okay? If sentences and grammar leave a lot to be desired, what then? If the story meanders …?

What are the main aims of our writing to self publish? Are most on-line scribblers obeying the age-old instinct that everyone has a book in them? Are they simply writing to see their name in print, or writing for fun and asking to be judged solely on the enjoyment factor? Or are they seeking to be judged on the same platform as books from a traditional publisher?

What has become apparent through my on-line presence is that there are two book worlds with success stories in both: traditional or mainstream with paperback as the main focus and self-published Ebooks on line.

Mainstream is the most difficult to crack. Few books are being accepted by agents and of those only a handful ever sell. Not because they are not as good, but simply because the bookshops make more money if they stick with titles that offer the greatest discounts.  However, the great ‘lure’  of this format is acceptance as a writer. There remains a vast level of snobbishness in the book world, the harbinger for success, especially in the UK I can’t speak for other countries, is still to be formally published in paperback and stocked in shops. Only then can you be recognized as ‘a real writer’ by teachers, parents, and the powers-that-be, and added to their list of authors-into-schools.

However, if we go along the alternative route, second world of writing, a virtual on-line presence and readers en mass, are the four criteria I laid out above still relevant? And does it matter anyway? There is a vast appetite for Ebooks, and incomes to be gained from on-line sales. Does it therefore matter what the book is like, as long as it sells?

Maybe not! But that still doesn’t solve my problem with reviewing.

And this is why I have stopped reviewing. When reading a book, I simply don’t know what the author is seeking to achieve with his/her writing and therefore I don’t know how to judge it.
This post is Contributed by Author Barbara Spencer