However, with the creation of e-books we have been exposed to new opportunities for literary mediums. Instead of newspapers, we read social media memes and short-form articles. There are numerous ways people read in their daily lives, and the incorporation of the digital not only makes reading convenient but necessary in a digital age.
Amanda Elizabeth Abend – 8 June 2017
How did you get started?
The Wanderer started off as a group project for an undergrad Publishing course. Tasked with creating a literary review journal in order to better understand the standards of the publishing industry, I worked with peers Nia Hilton, Hayley Spence, and Iyari Padilla-Hernandez to create the basis for The Wanderer. We decided that the books we would review would be journey-based; that is, if we could wander through the book, it would be considered on-theme for our site. We didn’t want to limit ourselves to a specific genre or style, because we all have a very different approach to our reading and review methods.
The first few posts on the site were graded as assignments for our English coursework, which is why the site still retains a certain academic tone.
How do you review a book? Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along?
I like to lightly mark my book as I am reading it, by highlighting lines with beautiful imagery or key plot twists. I write my revelations and opinions on sticky notes as I am reading, which makes it easier to recall points of discussion. I collect my books and am fond of re-reading favorites, sometimes years later, and I have found that leaving my books marked improves any second readings. I am able to remember what affected me the first time I read it and compare it to details I didn’t see before.
What are you looking for?
At The Wanderer, we prefer to “review” books that have been recently released (within the past year). Anything older than a year we consider ‘commentary’. We have also written event reviews and author interviews. Anything literary, we look for.
If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?
I try and remain honest in my reviews, because I would want someone to be honest with me. At the same time, I understand that mistakes foster growth, so I try and stay unbiased and understanding of mistakes. With a book I halfway like, I make sure and identify the positive and negative, in the hopes of better informing potential readers as well as providing useful though gentle critique to the author themselves.
How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?
Typically, I am able to read ‘good’ books within a week or less. Research based books (like memoirs or biographies) take a little longer, depending on how well it is written and how dedicated I am to retaining the material.
How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?
The Wanderer’s collectively preferred to maintain an element of unbiased ambiguity in our rating system. We prefer to rate books by opinion. Meaning that, by posting a review, we hope that readers will gain a better understanding of what book will be about, without influencing their own opinion of the author’s style. In my own reviews I strive to summarize without spoiling, mimic the tone that readers can expect from the book, and provide readers with self-awareness of what they want to read next.
What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?
To just ask! Whether a review is paid or voluntary, it is important to create conversations about books. The more a book is reviewed, the more of an audience it will reach.
Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?
I have personally had authors thank me for the reviews I have written about their works, which has been exciting and flattering. Readers sometimes comment on our review, if they feel compelled to read the book or agree with our review.
My advice to authors on getting a ‘bad’ review (hasten to add that might mean a perfectly honest, well written, fair review – just bad from the author’s point of view) is to take what you can from it and move on. Under no circumstances to ‘argue’ with the reviewer – would you agree with that?
Yes. I believe that reviews are (generally) not written maliciously. Reviews are intended to help inform readers as well as authors. Authors should take constructive criticism seriously and use it to improve their writing without taking it personally or getting emotional.
We talk a lot about writing here on the blog, and possibly not enough about reading, which is after all why we’re all here. Why do you think people love reading? We’re seeing lots of statistics that say reading as a pastime is dying – do you think that’s the case?
I believe that literature evolves. We do not read in the same way today that ancient peoples read. We have evolved from cuneiform tablets to papyrus, from bound books to digital literature. And though we have evolved our reading technologies, we still read, and we still find value in literatures of the past.
What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?
As an author of reviews, I myself have been criticized for run on sentences, the overuse of grammar, or poor word choice. I tend to notice details like that, simply because I am self-conscious of my own weaknesses with them.
Is there anything you will not review?
At The Wanderer, we prefer to “review” books that have been recently released (within the past year). Anything older than a year is consider commentary.
We didn’t want to limit ourselves to a specific genre or style, because we all have a very different approach to our reading and review methods.
What do you think of the oft-quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?
By “moving the slush-pile online”, as readers we have much greater accessibility to literature. Engaging with a community of readers and writers is essential for growth and discovery. The internet has made it much easier for readers to access books and for writers to gain feedback and publication.
Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to indie or self-published titles?
As literature is made digital, accessibility and exposure to new forms of literature make people think differently about literature in the traditional sense. Many people tend to think of a book as a printed, bound volume. However, with the creation of e-books we have been exposed to new opportunities for literary mediums. Instead of newspapers, we read social media memes and short-form articles. There are numerous ways people read in their daily lives, and the incorporation of the digital not only makes reading convenient but necessary in a digital age. With the advent of self-publishing, we are provided with an overwhelming choice of reading materials, some bad and some good, but the numerous choices people now have for reading make self-publishing an easy and effective way for authors to reach readers.
End of Interview:
To read Amanda’s reviews visit The Wanderer.