Monday, March 19, 2012

Interview with Mayra Calvini Author of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing

What inspired you to write The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing?

I wish there had been a book on how to write reviews when I started reviewing. It would have prevented a lot of amateurish mistakes from my part. Actually, on second thought, I’m glad nobody wrote such a book—that’s the reason I came up with the idea in the first place! J

After several years of reviewing, I felt confident enough to put together a set of ‘rules’ and guidelines for beginners, a manual of sorts to help aspiring and beginner reviewers hone their craft. I mentioned my idea to my dear friend, author and reviewer Anne K. Edwards. She was excited about collaboration and we jumped into it. In six months we had the first draft.

Besides being a reviewer, you’re also a novelist and children’s picture book author. How do you handle negative reviews of your own books?

I once heard an author say about negative reviews: “If you’ve never received a negative review, there aren’t enough people reading your book.” That’s become one of my mantras.

That’s not to say negative reviews don’t sting. Of course they do—a little. But I always put the situation under perspective. A review is, after all, one person’s opinion, and the fact is that not everybody is going to like my book. Some might love it, others might hate it. If I can please some people some of the time, that’s enough for me.

If you read reviews of well-known books by famous authors, you’ll see a wide range of reviews, from the very good to the very bad. If famous New York Times best-selling authors sometimes get bad reviews, why can’t I? I don’t let my ego get in the way of my common sense. That said, positive reviews are definitely ego boosters! (grin)
Nowadays, many aspiring authors review books on their blogs. What are 5 benefits of reviewing for beginning writers?
If you’re an author or your goal is to become one, the benefits of book reviewing are enormous.
·         You learn about the craft of writing because you get to identify both the weaknesses and strengths of a book. You learn what works and what doesn’t, and eventually you become more apt in avoiding amateurish mistakes when you write your own books. You can do this because you’re able to look at someone else’s book objectively, something that it’s hard to do with your own writing. In this sense, reviewing can make you a better writer and a better judge of literature. This comes very handy if you belong to a critique group or serve as judge at contests.
·         Your writing becomes easier and better. Reviewing is writing, after all, and the more you write, the better it gets. Reviewing helps to hone your skills as a word builder.
·         You become familiar with publishers and the type of books they publish. This is especially helpful if you review in the genre that you write in and if you’re looking for places to submit your work.
·         You become familiar with agents and the type of books they like to represent. How do you know this? Most authors thank their agents in the acknowledgements page.
·         You develop an online presence, a platform. If you have an attractive blog where you post honest, intelligently written reviews, eventually you’ll build a good reputation as a serious reviewer and readers, publishers, authors and publicists will want to become your followers. Having lots of followers will instantly make you more attractive in the eyes of a publisher when you submit your book for consideration.
What is the difference between a review and an endorsement?
At its most basic, a review can be positive or negative, but an endorsement is always positive.
A review’s primary purpose is to inform the reader and help him make a decision on whether or not he should spend his money and time on a book, while an endorsement’s primary purpose is to help promote a book.
Also, unlike a review, an endorsement doesn’t have a certain structure that includes an opening or lead, a brief summary of the story, and an evaluation. An endorsement is simply a 1-3 sentence recommendation of a book. Often, publishers approach well-known authors to write endorsements on an upcoming title. These endorsements, or parts of it, are often placed on the front or back cover of a book.
When reviews are positive, however, snippets of it can be used as endorsements for the book. So parts of a review can be used as endorsements, but endorsements aren’t reviews.
Obviously, the advantage of an endorsement is that it is always positive, but endorsements, unless they come from a well-respected source, are viewed by readers with suspicion, especially when written by fellow authors.
The con of reviews is that, of course, they might not always be positive, and authors may not always be able to use them as endorsements. But reviews are considered a more trusted resource and, unlike the endorsement, give the reader a well-rounded evaluation of a book.
Can a freelance reviewer make a living reviewing books?
Take it from James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Review: “The only way to make money as a reviewer is to marry rich!”

How important are book reviews for the sale of a book?

Book reviews are one of the most effective tools of book promotion. In fact, some experts consider reviews the most effective tool.

For librarians, top review publications such as Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, School Library Journal, etc., play a vital role in the selection of titles. Reviews are the strongest criterion for selection. While it’s true booksellers look at different criteria when making a decision about which books to stock, reviews are a tremendously useful and helpful factor, especially when in doubt or when the author is unknown. Pre-release review publications like the ones mentioned before play an important role in the selection of books, allowing bookstores to order titles in advance of their official release dates, thus making them available to the public immediately after their release. Online reviews are particularly important when selecting titles from small presses or unknown authors who often don’t get reviews in the major pre-release publications.

The fact is, most people read reviews. Reviews and readers go together like wine and cheese. Before spending money on a book--especially in the case of expensive hard covers--most people turn to reviews to get an idea of the book’s quality and whether or not there’s a recommendation. In this age of computers when almost every person has a PC at home, it’s easy for booklovers to access the Internet and read book reviews. With the rise of so many niche review sites, book blogs, and readers sharing their reviews on sites like Amazon, it’s popular to read reviews. Also, the more reviews about a book, the more buzz and exposure.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I have always found Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and The Right to Write, incredibly inspiring.

She says: “Writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up.”

These powerful words were very revealing to me and changed the direction I took with writing. If I have to ‘think something up,’ writing becomes something lofty, something I may not be able to grasp. I’m straining. On the other hand, if I focus on getting something down, I have a sense of attention but I’m not straining. It’s like I’m taking dictation. Or like I’m watching the movie in my head and writing down what I see.

This simple philosophy completely freed and revolutionized my writing. 

How about offering an online crash course in book reviewing?
Actually, I do teach book reviewing courses at as well as individually. Information can be found on my website at

Reader Girls:

Rabid Reads

Fang-tastic Books

Reading Romances

Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf –

Cindy's Love of Books

Work A day Read

Babs Book Bistro

Bookin' It Reviews ~

B'Tween Prose

Book Bags and Cat Naps

Just Views

A Bibliosphere

Louisa Bacio -- Love Knows No Bounds


Mama Knows Books

Sapphyria's Book Reviews

Picked by Poison

Urban Girl Reader –

Romancing the Book


It's All About Me

My Neurotic Book Affair

Keeping Up With The Rheinlander's

Young Adult Book Reviews-

Jade Mystique

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing

Author: Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
ISBN: 978-1-933353-22-7
Genre: Reference/Writing
Format: Trade paperback
Price: $16.95 print, $4.99 ebook
Pages: 180
Chapter excerpt:


Are you passionate about books? Do you have the desire to share your thoughts about a book with readers, yet are unsure about what makes a good review? Are you curious about the influence reviews have on readers, booksellers, and librarians?

If you’re an experienced reviewer, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing will serve as an excellent reference tool and amalgam of resources. If you’re a beginner, this book will show you how to write a well-written, honest, objective and professional book review. It will also teach you:

• How to read critically
• How to differentiate the various types of reviews
• How to rate books
• How to prevent amateurish mistakes
• How to deal with the ethics and legalities of reviewing
• How to tell the difference between a review, a book report, and a critique
• How to start your own review site
• How to publish your reviews on dozens of sites and even make money while you’re at it, and much more

If you’re an author, publisher, publicist, bookseller, librarian, or reader, this book will also bring to light the importance and influence of book reviews within a wider spectrum.

What reviewers are saying…

“There’s not a reviewer out there that wouldn’t benefit from this review of reviewing… this is a great reference book for libraries…”
–Heather Shaw, Editor-in-Chief, ForeWord Magazine

“This book from Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards is the first ‘Reviewer’s Desk Reference’ for book reviewers at all levels.”
–Reviewed by Ernest Dempsey, The World Audience

“As an experienced reviewer I learned that I do not know it all and will keep my copy of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing for reference. It is not a book I will loan out because it won’t be returned…If you want to break into book reviewing, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a must-have reference. Heed the author’s advice and you can write reviews that will get you and the books you review noticed.”
–Reviewed by Sharon Broom, Armchair Interviews.

“The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a useful took for both amateur and professional book reviewers, as well as book review editors. There should be no doubt that the good tips, thoughtful perspective and resource information can be of considerable value to anyone wishing to practice this art.”
–Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Allbooks Reviews.

“I do recommend The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing as a must-have resource guide. Calvani and Edwards present a well-written gold-mine to potential reviewers as well as a source of information for experienced reviewers and authors.”
–Reviewed by Irene Watson, Reader Views.

“The Slippery Art… is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in book reviews – writers, reviewers, publishers, publicists, librarians, booksellers and readers.”
– Reviewed by Francine Silverman, Editor of The Book Promotion Newsletter


ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award Winner under the Writing Category!
2011 Global Ebooks Awards Winner for Nonfiction/Reference!
*US Book News National Best Book Award Finalist!
*Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist!
*EPPIE Award Finalist!
*Used for reviewing course at 3 US universities and 1 university in the Netherlands.

For more information, visit Amazon or Twilight Times Books.

Authors’ bios:

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She’s had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published both online and in print, in publications such as The Writer, Writer's Journal, Acentos Review, Bloomsbury Review, Mosaic, and Multicultural Review, among many others. A reviewer for more than a decade, she now offers numerous book reviewing workshops online. She also offers workshops on the art of picture book writing. She's represented by Mansion Street Literary and Savvy Literary. Visit her website at

Anne K. Edwards is an award-winning multi-genre author, reviewer and editor of Voice in the Dark Ezine. Her latest novel is the suspense thriller, Shadows Over Paradise, published by Twilight Times Books. Visit her website at

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