Reviews for ratings or to explore something new?

The reviews on this blog have been a mix of new or unknown authors and books by recognizable names. Since this blog isn’t Beatrice or Bookslut, I don’t kid myself into thinking that my opinions about authors and their books will have an earthshaking impact in the scheme of things.

Since I’m not Beatrice or Bookslut, much less The New York Times or the Washington Post, I worry less about the impact of ratings. If I work for a widely known media outlet, I’lll be handed most of the books I review and most of those will be books that are probably doing well enough not to need a review.

On the other side of the coin, new authors need the exposure that reviews give them whether they come from readers on Amazon or bloggers like myself. I know how authors feel when they ask me to review their books and the next thing they see here is a review of a bestselling author.

I know because I’ve been there. My books have also gone to review sites that chose instead to review, in some cases, books that were several years old and already famous and already reviewed by everyone and their brother. I know, I know, that famous book is better for ratings, especially if you have advertisers that watch our market influence like hawks.

I’m not oblivious to ratings here. I don’t suppose this is a secret, but I do hope some of those who stop by this blog will like what they see and buy one of my books.

The BIG BOOKS I review here are books I bought, read, likely and felt like talking about. The authors won’t know I reviewed their book 99% of the time. But, like others who enjoy talking with their friends about the latest books “everybody’s reading,” it’s fun to toss in my two cents about J. K. Rowling or Dan Brown from time to time.

But I feel guilty when I do it. I see a lot of visitors with those posts, but I wasn’t bringing them anything new–just more talk about a book or an author that’s been reviewed everywhere else. I feel better, I think, when I can tell you about a book you haven’t heard of, but might like. Those posts get fewer visits and that’s discouraging.

I wasn’t born yesterday, so I know that people tend to read books everyone else is reading rather than experimenting with books none of their online and off-line friends have heard of.

A new author is always a risk. But there could be gold there even though The New York Times and Book Page and Publishers Weekly will never give that author a chance. But what an adventure it is to read something wonderful from a debut author. That’s part of the fun of reviewing books and deciding to go with something nobody’s ever heard of instead of the BIG BOOK has already sold 100000000000 copies.

So, how experimental in your reading are you?

Do you wait to see which books grab the mainstream reviewers’ and public’s attention and create your reading list from that group? Or, do you read descriptions of self-published and small press books and give them a try from time to time?