Interview with Steven Diamond (Elitist Book Reviews)

Today I’ll be talking with Steven Diamond, founder and editor of the 2013 & 2014 Hugo Nominated blog, Elitist Book Reviews ( Steve also writes for Baen, Privateer Press, and numerous small publications. His debut YA Horror/Urban Fantasy novel, Residue, is set for release in 2015 through Ragnarok Publications, and he is the editor of the anthology Shared Nightmares:

SCy-Fy: What’s a typical blogging day for you, Steven?

SD: Well, that’s the challenge, isn’t it? I’m the Finance Manager for a DoD Contractor. The other reviewers at EBR all have jobs. So really, a typical day of blogging starts once everyone else in the family is in bed and asleep. After that, it’s sneaking in 50-100 pages of reading, then frantically getting a review or editorial up. Depending on the day, I’ll review future posts to make sure they are up to par, email back-and-forth with my web-admin and other reviewers, contact authors and publicists, email readers…

…huh. When you say it like that, it makes you realize how much MORE time is spent in the background of the blog rather than actually blogging.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives for the blog?

SD: I think the main goal of every blogger is finding more readers. Getting more exposure. We already have a few things that are about to go live that will help EBR with this initiative. And of course, we are always on the lookout for more reviewers.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major challenges for SFF blogging going forward?

SD: I think we are finally starting to see a shift in the perception amongst fandom that blogs are legit. There has been so much drama the last couple of years where traditional fanzines have bashed any and all blogs, saying how we didn’t belong, or didn’t deserve any recognition for what we bring to fandom and to readers everywhere around the world. That’s garbage. And that’s the perception that needs to continue to change.

And then, of course, there is the issue of differentiating yourself from the other 8 million people who decided last night that they are bloggers.

SCy-Fy: And that quantity of people has many different effects…

SD: Yes. Look at the state of publishing. It’s becoming harder and harder to filter and identify quality amongst the traditional publishers and the self-published folks. There is so much noise out there. Every day I’m bombarded with review requests from people who literally finished their book yesterday and published it this morning. Seriously? And then we see smaller publishers putting out questionable material, and running into financial issues. It’s rough out there. And bloggers get hit by it all like a fire-hose to the face. This is only going to get harder.

SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers?

SD: You have to be regular. Posting once a month doesn’t do you any good. Don’t post click-bait or make stupid statements just because it will cause controversy.

SCy-Fy: For reviewers?

SD: 99% of the time, don’t attack the author. Keep your criticism professional whenever possible, and express WHY you feel something is an issue or WHY something is awesome. Be courteous, even when people are horrible to you.

SCy-Fy: For Writers?

SD: From personal experience – practice. Write as much as possible. Fan-fiction, short fiction, tie-in fiction, novels, session summaries from your group’s RPG. Get people to give you unbiased feedback, then listen to the feedback. Most importantly, take it seriously. If you treat it like a job (one that you enjoy), you are less likely to get in trouble with deadlines, and you will produce more quickly and have more success.

SCy-Fy: What do you think is a blogger’s best resource?

SD: A blogger’s biggest resource is the blogger. How you comport yourself professionally will have the biggest impact on your ability to make connections. If you are a jerk to people, they will respond in kind. If you attack without knowing the facts, you not only look stupid, but you burn bridges.

I go to conventions and introduce myself to every editor and author I can. I’m not shy. I’m a nice guy. I’m a genuinely friendly person, and I like to talk. And I have a passion for books. It’s not what they can do for me, but what I can do for them, their authors, and their readers.

SCy-Fy: Pitfalls in SFF blogging?

SD: Blogging fatigue. You think you can go forever, but you can’t. You read books, but then don’t want to sit down and write the review. Thinking you can do it all on your own, when having a support network is super-important.

SCy-Fy: In reviewing?

SD: On the reviewing side, or the commentary side, I’d say there is a huge problem when people can’t manage to separate an author from their work. Just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean you should bash their work. I care about the work. Is the book good? Alright then. I can think an author is a terrible person and still enjoy their novels. I can love an author like a brother or sister and still hate their books. IT’S OK.

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

SD: When Elitist Book Reviews was nominated for the Hugo Award in 2013 and 2014, I was on the receiving end of a shocking amount of hate. Because EBR wasn’t a traditional fanzine. Because people voted for me what OTHER people didn’t like. Because one guy voted for me that was a horrible person. I was literally sneered at when I attended WorldCon in San Antonio. So yeah, I got the hate-filled emails. Insults to me, my wife and children. Insults to my reviewers. Insults from people that I’d even reviewed extremely well. Threats to me and my family from people who had no idea who I actually was. I’ll be blunt, I almost packed it in.

SCy-Fy: I’m glad you didn’t…

SD: And then I remembered all those authors, editors, readers, and publicists that emailed me over the years, thanking EBR for the reviews and the kindness. EBR blogs for them.

SCy-Fy: Posts of yours that have created controversy?

SD: I avoid controversy. I don’t talk about politics or religion. I don’t believe it’s healthy. So the most controversy I stir up is when me or one of my reviewers don’t like a book. Then the fans of that book go on full attack-mode. It’s fine. I’m just glad they are reading.

SCy-Fy: Let’s finish with the bottom line. The best books of 2014?

SD: Yikes. Off the top of my head? The Thicket by Joe Lansdale. The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks. Grunt Life by Weston Ochse. Skin Game by Jim Butcher. Dust and Light by Carol Berg. Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence. Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to reading?

SD: The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence. The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis. Murder by Sarah Pinborough. The Border by Robert McCammon. Paradise Sky by Joe Lansdale. The Spider’s War by Daniel Abraham. Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey. Fall Of Light by Steven Erikson. Trial Of Intentions by Peter Orullian. The Last Rite by Jasper Kent. Grunt Traitor by Weston Ochse. Residue by Steven Diamond (What?! Why, that’s ME!)

SCy-Fy: So it is. Any last words?

SD: Keep reading. Read anything and everything. Doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about the book. The only thing that matters is what YOU think.

Also, to toot my own horn, check out the Horror anthology I edited, Shared Nightmares – available on Amazon.

Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for my debut YA Horror/Urban Fantasy novel, Residue, coming in 2015 from Ragnarok Publications.

SCy-Fy: Good luck with those, Steven. And thank you for your time.

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