Monday, August 12, 2019

Six Questions for Emma Lee, Reviews Editor, The Blue Nib Literary Magazine pt 4 of 6

The Blue Nib Literary Magazine publishes poetry, fiction/nonfiction of 750-3,000 words and book reviews. Read the complete guidelines here.

The Blue Nib is home to The Blue Nib Poetry Chapbook Contest which has been judged by poets such as Paul Sutherland, Kevin Higgins, Michael Blackburn and most recently Helen Mort. Previous winners include, Anne Walsh Donnelly, Ruth Quinlan and Derek Kannemeyer.

SQF: How did you get involved with The Blue Nib Literary Magazine?

Emma Lee: I’d started reading the magazine, enjoyed it and sent a submission of poems. In my author biography I stated that I reviewed for several poetry magazines and on my blog. The Blue Nib's editor accepted my poems and asked if I'd join the review team.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

EL: In the submission of a review I primarily look at whether I'm given enough information to decide whether or not I want to read the book under review, i.e. I want the reviewer to give me a flavour of the book. Secondly I look for whether the reviewer has engaged with the book and justified their opinions. Thirdly communication with the review reader: I don't want to be bored by the end of the second paragraph and I don't want spoilers.

In the submission of a book/pamphlet/chapbook for review I'm looking for a request that shows professional courtesy (don't follow up a request within 24 hours, you are entitled to request a review but not entitled to a review and I am not censoring you if I turn down your work), gives me enough information to make a decision on whether I want to commission a review, e.g. includes a media pack/author information sheet and a summary of what the writing is about or key themes explored if the manuscript isn't sent, and a .pdf copy of the manuscript is available (either in the request or if I request it). The Blue Nib is an international magazine and its team of reviewers aren't all based in the same country.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

EL: In a review, hyperbole: a reviewer may love the book they are reviewing but if they don't justify why they love it, the review reads like a piece of advertising and unconditional over-the-top praise doesn't help the reader decide whether the book is for them. Any review that reads as a personal attack on the author and doesn't attempt to discuss the book under review. A piece that reads as a cut-and-paste job from the media pack and it looks as if the reviewer hasn't actually read the book they're reviewing.

In a review request, work that doesn't demonstrate an understanding of craft, writing that is technically flawless but has nothing to say, the assumption that the reader holds the same values as the writer, e.g. I don't want lazy stereotyping or prejudice, and unjustified sexual, racist or ableist violence. A story about gang warfare will necessarily have violence but it's justified by context and character.

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraphs/stanzas of a submission?

EL: In a review discussion of the work under review and confidence that the reviewer wants to communicate what they like or dislike about the book. Mention of the author's career to date or the publisher's production values don't belong in the opening paragraph but are fine, within reason, later on.

In an item for review, I look for the compulsion to read on.

SQF: What one piece of advice would you offer an author hoping to be published in The Blue Nib Literary Magazine?

EL: Read, ideally some back copies of the magazine (samples are free on The Blue Nib's website), but extensive reading shows in an author's work: it's how you will grow and develop your writing. If you're still not sure whether your work is a good fit, try us anyway.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

EL: Should an author respond to a review?

Generally no, unless the review contains factual errors. A review is someone's opinion, and the reviewer may not be part of your target market, but their negative reaction might be a positive providing they've given enough information in their review for a reader to make their own mind up. A publisher has sold books on the back of my reviews where the book clearly didn't appeal to me personally, but I gave enough flavour of the style and themes to give readers who were the target market the ability to decide to buy the book. A responsible reviewer will not tag an author on social media in the hope of baiting an author to read a bad review; if that happens, an author is entitled to call out the baiting, but don't respond to the review.

Thank you, Emma. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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