Monday, November 17, 2008

Interview with Anne K. Edwards, co-author of THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING

Please join Murder by 4 and welcome back Anne K. Edwards for an interview focused on the new book, THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING.

APL: Tell us about your book, THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING. Who is it aimed at, and what has been the initial feedback?

Anne K. Edwards: THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING is aimed at anyone who either is or wants to be a reviewer. It was written to bring as much information as possible about reviewing into one form for convenience as well as a guide for the new reviewer or a refresher for the experienced reviewer. The feedback has been excellent in that the reviews are all positive and recommend the book. It is a Finalist in the USA Books Awards and is also being used in at least two colleges as texts for English courses.

APL: What were the rewards and challenges of co-authoring this book with Mayra Calvani? How did you enjoy the experience of sharing authorship?

Anne K. Edwards: My favorite reward of working with Mayra Calvani is that she is a very enthusiatic author and very organized. This makes it so easy to work with her. She is clear on what she wanted the book to be, which is a help to someone like myself who initially had little interest in writing nonfiction. And as in any team effort, there should be a leader so who better to lead than Mayra, with her sense of what needed to be done and how to do it? The only challenge was keeping up with her. She is a whirlwind to my slow motion. I enjoyed very much working with Mayra, but am not sure I could do this with others. That would depend on the other person. Such a person must needs be a near saint to work with me as I am impatient, don't like doing things twice, hate research of any kind, hate deadlines, and find it a chore to work those times when I'd rather be doing nothing at all. My muse is a very lazy fellow.

APL: You love mysteries. You’ve written several as well as published children’s books. Was this your first nonfiction work? How did it compare to writing fiction?

Anne K. Edwards: THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING is my first attempt in the world of nonfiction. To compare writing nonfiction to writing fiction is easy. Writing fiction is fun while writing nonfiction is work. By that I mean, I write all my books from my own head and do little to no research, I edit as I write and I don't use outlines. But in nonfiction, there must be some sort of outline, you must research or know the subject thoroughly before attempting to write the book. And you must be organized which I fear, I am not.

APL: Approximately how many reviews have you written in your career? Have you changed your approach or process over the years?

Anne K. Edwards: Wow!! I'm not sure I can answer this question. I write as few as three reviews some months and as many as twenty other months, and have been reviewing for many years. A lot depends on my other work. If I'm working on a book it slows the number of reviews or if I get involved in other things like editing or putting a long issue of Voice in the Dark together. My approach has probably changed as I learned more about reviewing, and I think reviewing is an evolving field. At first, I was worried about alienating an author, but that changes quickly if you realize you're responsibility lies to the reader. I find also my reviews have changed because the smaller presses are doing more editing and also accepting fewer books that aren't well written so the things I focus on are shifting also.

APL: What criteria do you use to select a book for a review? Read the first chapter? Ask for a particular genre?

Anne K. Edwards: The only type of books I don't review are self-published or vanity presses and this is because of lack of editing. I don't review erotica or porn because quite frankly it is too repetitious and too many lack real plotting as the author uses explicit sex scenes of twenty pages at a time from three to six times and the plot is just a sort of link between them as these scenes are the book's sole purpose for being. I also will not review books that are defamatory or outside the general reading public's preferences as those books can go to review sites within their marketing niche. Lastly, most of the books I review are selected by others and sent--as New Mystery Reader or New and Used Books. The books I do take outside these sites are usually from authors I've reviewed before and enjoyed their books. Sometimes when I get a request from someone I don't know, I will request a few pages to see if I can give a fair review based on lack of errors in the writing and if I think that author can write. I specify that the work must be edited and at times this causes the request to be withdrawn. I find I can be objective outside my own preferred reading and that is a main requirement for reviewing in any genre.

APL: Tell us about the life of Anne Edwards. You live on a farm in the country. Describe a typical day with your husband, horses, and cats. When do you find time to write?

Anne K. Edwards: I never have a typical day since each one depends on the needs and whims of the horses and cats. Some days we seem to spend a large portion at the veterinarian's office or waiting for one at home--many of our critters are aged. Other days, we are taking hay deliveries or going to the feed store. Errands get pushed into one day but this still eats up the full day. Regular chores outside eat a large hole in the day also. Writing time is often scarce due to that alone, but if I do manage a few broken hours at the computer, I spend a lot of time 'chatting' with friends and looking for new sites related to reviewing or book promotion and marketing, all the while removing cats from between me and the monitor or off the keyboard. I find I need at least two unbroken hours before what I write makes any sense, so I usually write things in my head and then transfer them as I get time. Sadly, I've lost some lovely ideas that way, but my best thinking time is when I'm doing barn work.

APL: Can you tell us about your previous books? What are you working on now?

Anne K. Edwards: Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books took a chance on DEATH ON DELIVERY which was first an ebook and then released in print. She has also published my first children's ebook, JEREMY AND THE DRAGON which has turned into a series, the second of which is being written now. Another ebook, THE LAST TO FALL came out last spring and is doing well. Lastly, is THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING of which I am coauthor. DEATH ON DELIVERY is a mystery, first in the Hannah Clare series--she's a bit different from other women detectives--older, works alone, no nonsense about her and she likes catching the bad guys even at risk to herself. JEREMY AND THE DRAGON was written to show that children can think their way through problems if given a chance. THE LAST TO FALL is a futuristic warning based on what is happening in our world today, but my main characters are three teenagers which does not make it a story for the young, just that they represent the future and perhaps a lost hope. And THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING is my only foray into nonfiction following the talented Mayra Calvani's lead. "SLIPPERy" is meant as a help book to any reviewer, compiling as much information on the subject as could be found.

I am currently working on JEREMY AND THE DRAGON, the second book in that series. And the second mystery for Hannah Clare is nearly done. And as with most authors, I have a million ideas that will probably never see light as time is the problem. Why can't they clone us so we could use these untold tales?

APL: What’s your view on ebooks and print books? Where do you see the book industry going?

Anne K. Edwards: I've been seeing articles that say the publishing industry and bookselling is going down. I think this news applies to the printed version of books and then to the large publishing houses. Recently, I saw that the sale of ebooks was up something like 70% or so. That fact tells me something. Ebooks are here to stay. All they need is a reader that doesn't eat up batteries or cost an arm and a leg, and is easy for us gadget illiterate types to use. A last fact is that the audio form of books is becoming very popular too and will see good growth in the future.

APL: What’s your view on small publishers versus the giants? Do you have advice for emerging writers on this topic?

Anne K. Edwards: That may be a complex question, but my answer is simple. The giants do not always select books for quality, but those that they can mass produce and sell such as specialty books aimed at young readers--the life story of a twenty year old singer or movie personality of the moment. They sell fiction that is often formula fiction which means it is a tried and true plot with few variations on characters or style. And there is a trend for these giants to set these formula books up, then hire writers to follow the dots to producing like stories time after time, i.e., work for hire writing. This keeps all the profits inhouse and they hold copyright. The giants rarely take chances on new writers, they have eliminated much of the mid-list writers, and with a shrinking market they may drop more authors. The small publishers who market online are maintaining or enlarging their market share due to production of ebooks and a willingness to take chances on new authors, thus providing readers with the variety of reading material and new authors that the giants are failing to provide. As more readers use computers to make their purchases of goods, the reality is they will also buy more books online, whether print or ebook. The giants may be waking up to that fact too, as I see reports that they are occasionally buying or contracting with successful small presses. But a word of warning, if they shoulder their way into this online market, attempts will be made to force many small presses out and limit their proliferation, so the giants can increase their own profit margin again. This will limit what is available to the reader as well.

My advice to new writers is based on my own experience. Literary agents rarely, if ever, take on new, untried authors. Their income is based on what they sell and new authors are an unknown quantity and have no following so they are nearly impossible to sell to the large houses agents deal with. This is not a reflection on literary agents, just a fact of life. The larger houses do not take on authors without agents and any submitted manuscript that is not requested may be destroyed, returned unopened, or condemned to the slush pile where it may sit forever.

So, my advice to authors seeking publication is do not waste months or even a year or more waiting to hear from an agent or large publisher on acceptance or rejection. This is in spite of the outdated mantra we hear that we need an agent to be published. That applies only to being published by the large houses and agents are used by them as a sort of filter to keep out the unwanted work.

On the other hand, small presses, niche presses, and other types of presses will give you a much quicker response and your chances of publication are much higher. I highly recommend new authors begin here as this helps develop talent which in turn, builds a readership. Once you have a couple of successes, then is the time to look for an agent if you are still determined to try for being published by the large houses, but do this only if you are willing to waste a LOT of time along the way waiting for them to notice you.

APL: Can you tell us about

Anne K. Edwards: was set up for me by a dear friend who at one time had the website. I learned reviewing from working for her also and when was set up, I quickly found I didn't have any real interest in just rehashing information about myself. So I decided it would be more fun and of value to use it to promote other writers as well and it serves that function well.

APL: Is there a website where we can learn more about THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING?

Anne K. Edwards: Yes, Thanks for having me here! And please check out the following sites for more on THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING:

Literary Journal:
Mayra Calvani:

Anne is from south central PA where she lives on a small farm with some horses and a bunch of cats. She loves books and travel and close friends. She writes what she likes to read--mysteries.
Anne is the Editor-in-Chief of which includes the literary Ezine "Voice in the Dark." Future projects include a new mystery, DEATH REENACTED, two childrens books and short stories for New Mystery Reader.


Mayra Calvani said...

Dear Aaron,

Thank you so much for hosting Anne on our VBT today. We really appreciate it!


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Mayra, you're so welcome. And I just heard that Anne has lost a very good friend today, so she might not be able to check in here. Meanwhile, I wanted to thank her for being our guest. Both of you are always welcome!

I've been so swamped today - yesterday was the first day I didn't post an MB4 piece on my blog day since last February when we launched. Wonder if anyone noticed? LOL.

Take care, Mayra.


Kim Smith said...

Dear Anne, thank you for being with us, and for such a wonderful informed post. I have been hearing of the death of the midlist recently and while disturbed by this, realize that it is the life span of publishing that is really evolving. I think small press authors will benefit from the changes.