This group is for those of you who like to read with a critical or editor's eye. It is also for those of you who simply like books. The authors who self-publish with www.offthebookshelf.com have chosen to do so for many reasons. Self-publishing is no longer the ignored step-child in the world of publishing. There are many advantages to doing it yourself. The greatest challenge to self-publishing is finding an audience. We hope our WAENet members, who are also welcome to join OTBS will help their fellow authors by either a good critique to help them make their work better, or a great review to build readership. If you are reviewing a book and want to offer critical feedback we ask the following:
Remember that this is not the New York Times Book Review. Although we welcome good writing and a critical eye, we want to make this a safe and positive place where the reviewer is not looking to build up his or her own reputation by ripping someone to shreds. For example: never say "you should give up writing because you suck." We know our members would never do such a thing, but it is only human to be tempted to be cruel. This is a community where we are all learning from each other so support is key.
I am a member of Toastmasters International and I love the approach we are taught to evaluate people's speeches. Take note that we are evaluating the speech and not the person. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who wrote the book you will be reviewing. Think in terms of how to make something better not how much you don't like it.
In toastmasters we are told to approach evaluation like a sandwich. We start with something good about the speech, then add some constructive points of how it can be better, and then finish with what is good about it. This encourages the speaker to improve and grow. Self-published books can be corrected and improved much more easily than those that are traditionally published.
Some self-published authors choose to do so for many reasons and have no desire to become traditionally published. Your help in supporting the books you like will bring more readers to the authors. If they do choose to try to find a traditional publisher through our query fest, or other means of submission, your support could be a great help. If you truly don't like a book, you can certainly be honest. However, approach it as you would like someone to approach your work as you continue on the path to success.