Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Forbes 25 Reviewers - #4 Wendy Darling

Today's guest is Wendy Darling.  Wendy also posts at The Midnight Garden.

How did you discover Goodreads?
A friend of mine prodded me to join for ages, and I finally opened an account in late 2009. I didn't start using the site until 2011, however--but now I can't imagine being without it. I use it for cataloging, sorting, as a quick temperature checks at bookstores if I'm considering a book, and of course, it's an invaluable resource for reviews that are relatively free of influence from outside factors.

What have been your most memorable Goodreads experiences?
That's a loaded question. I've met so many passionate fellow readers on GoodReads, and I've learned about many books I never would have heard about otherwise--and how sad my life would have been without those books in it! Even though I'm a former reviewer for Publishers Weekly, I weigh the opinion of people I've gotten to know much more than I do reviews by mainstream publications.

On the flip side, reviewing books on this site has also shown me incredibly ugly, self-centered behavior that's affected me both personally and on principle. I wish authors and readers alike respected review space that belongs to someone else. I welcome polite discussion, but I will never understand how people can be so vicious and demeaning over a mere difference in opinion. And I wish GoodReads took a stronger, if not more active, stance on abusive behavior.

Name one reviewer not in the Forbes 25 that people should be aware of.
I almost never consent to interviews, but this is the question that made me want to respond this one. Seeing the top 25 profiles in Forbes was fun, but there are countless reviewers who will never make that list who write extraordinary reviews. Here are just some of the people whose reviews I always pay special attention to when they pop up in my feed:

I adore Thomas. He writes thoughtful, quietly lovely reviews, mostly for YA, classics, and literary fiction. He's just graduated from high school so I'm hoping we don't lose him completely to his studies (I know, so selfish!), and I like that he also talks about issues he thinks are important on his blog The Quiet Voice.

I am also very fond of both Matthew Hunter and Mark Letcher. I can always count on them for interesting perspectives on quality young adult literature, and we've had some fun discussions over our favorite books, including The Golden Compass.

My cobloggers K and Tonya are my absolute favorite reviewers, however. I've read some of their beautiful reviews literally half a dozen times because I love the way they write and I respect their opinions so much. Kindred spirits, those two.

What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?
I don't think this move came as a surprise to anyone who was been paying attention, so my reaction was resignation. I understand it from a business perspective, but as the site has developed into such a huge marketing tool for authors and publishers, I've become less and less convinced that its members' rights are protected. As a result, I'm less and less invested in the site as well.

Still, I hope that GoodReads is true to its position that there will be no major site changes as far as the way reviews are displayed, voting systems configured, etc. I admit to cynicism about that in the long term, however, since there's already been interesting opacity in the ways reviews are hidden (and who knows what else) anyway.

How many books do you own?
Is this a real question?! Thousands.

Who is your favorite author?
This probably comes as a surprise since I'm known for mostly reviewing YA, but my favorite living author is Sarah Waters. She writes literary fiction with strong feminine themes, many of which are set during the Victorian era. I've been saving one of her books for years, because it's only one I haven't read yet and it'll be awhile before her next one is even announced.

What is your favorite book of all time?
*disapproving stare*

I refuse to answer that question. But I will refer you to my "favorites of all time" shelf if you really need an idea. I also keep shelves of yearly favorites.

What are your thoughts on ebooks?
They're fantastic. I think they are marvelous for urgent post-midnight purchases, for travel, and for pleasure reading. But I will never give up physical copies, and if I really love a book I've read electronically, I still need a hard copy for my shelves.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
I think it's amazing that we're living in an age when it's so easy for readers to easily access new work without waiting the typical years between acquisition and traditional publication. The problem is, part of that time is usually spent on polishing manuscripts with the input of professionals, and to be honest the majority of the self-published work I've read feels like the raw material for a good book rather than a finished piece. (We won't even talk about the vanity work that should have stayed locked away on would-be writers' hard drives.)

That being said, I've read some really great books that were originally self-published, including And All the Stars, Angelfall, and The Sea of Tranquility. Katja Millay shared her extraordinary publishing story with us recently, by the way--her self-pubbed book was picked up by Simon & Schuster after being live for just three weeks. It's interesting to see how publishing landscape continues to evolve, as a result, the way we readers evolve as consumers, too.

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