Blog: NextRead [clever name]
Founder: Gavin C Pugh
First Post: October 18th 2005 [ancient]
Average Number of Posts per Month: 10,3 [based on the whole 2009 and this means that you have been terribly lazy…]
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction & Crime [though, honestly Gav, I have yet to see a recent review pop in that last genre]
From the Man Himself: NextRead is here to show off the best that Science Fiction, Fantasy and Crime genre fiction has to offer. And if they’re hiding as Literature I’ll bring you those too. [Yes, clever and eloquent. You amaze us all with that British brevity.]
Highlights: Nothing set as an actual, distinguished and purposeful meme or feature, but the old chap is quite introspective and contemplative and he produces great thought provoking commentaries.
Why do I bother?: He’s British. He’s a Veteran in the field. He links to me. Also I plan to brain wash him and assume his identity in order to receive all his book swag. [But you did not just read this last bit.]
My Two Cents: I became acquainted with Mister Pugh [his last name is so awesome, by the way] through Twitter and I have been instantly welcomed. My Tweets were re-tweeted and he responded to my misspelled and sloppily constructed humor. We made a reading pact and yes, he failed me back in January [you did, Gav, you sod], but I see potential in this slow paced man. As you can see from the stats, he is not the most energetic blogger out there with around 10-11 posts per month on average for 2009 [Math does not lie]. However, he is making a run for it in 2010 with 35 accumulated posts already and it is not so much the frequency, but the content that matters, right? By the way, Gav, I am saying this to make you feel better. Every single person knows you have to be a machine gun. Look at Book Chick City, she is one step away from abducting people and force them to be her readers. An overlord she is.
So why should you, the readers, become fans of NextRead? A valid question with a simple answer. For starters, the man gets a lot of books. This means the publishing industry thinks he has something worthwhile to say. That or they have the wrong address and ship him books that are rightfully mine. Joke aside, Gav is an experienced reader and each of his reviews gives most to the reader without the demystification that comes with dissecting a novel. He hits the nail without spinning paragraphs upon paragraphs of purple prose and is straight to the point. I am not hysterical about his execution, because I want to be lulled in by the person writing the review, but I have always agreed with his assessment on books we have both read and usually I have picked up angles I wouldn’t have thought of.
NextRead is however not about the review, thought that is not surprising. In order to adapt to the harsh ecosystem with new predators on the prowl, blogs need to diversify and NextRead embodies versatility. Following NextRead means being in the loop about cover art, news from the publishing world and from book review blogs [when he bothers to be active, though. By the way, this is a hint]. I am also enthralled by his mystical power to gather attention [hits & comments] through his pesky contemplative commentaries on scandals and occurrences on the web. By the way, he tricks you into believing that he is smart by asking those questions, but that’s irrelevant, because he always picks a topic that’s like a summer fire in Australia. It makes you think, which is a feat these days with so much horrid daytime TV.
Overall, you subscribe to his RSS feed and comment as much as possible. The man deserves it.
Okay, so I am done kissing ass. Where are my books? Someone promised me books. I want them now… My precious. *hiss*
Hey Gav, thanks for undergoing this interrogation with me. I promise that it will be fun, at least for me. I will start with some mandatory questions such as what do you do in real life in order to feed the habit and who is this mysterious blogger like, if one is to remove the books out of the picture?
I’ve just read the questions. I think I’m in for grilling!
Is there life without blogging? And life without books? Where is this place you’re talking about?
Unsurprisingly though books do take up quite a bit of my life. But when I’m not reading I live quite a boring life. Well I hope not that boring.
In my free time excluding books. I have a love of design, illustration and typography. I used to design typeset books for a small publisher before I put money over art and ended up with a more stable but less exciting job.
But I still spent time doodling on Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter (I won a copy of Painter X from Corel Painter Magazine once for a digital painting) and I’m trying to figure out how to ebooks are typeset (not as easy as it looks). So maybe I’ll go back to designing books again someday.
I travel quite a bit and like taking pictures of the places I’ve been like Hong Kong, Vegas, San Francisco, Athens and Norway to name a few so that keeps me away from the computer once in a while.
I collect tarot cards and used to read professionally but now it’s more for the art. The images are alone are show that images do often speak a thousand words. Reading them also proves that stories can come together in the strangest ways. I guess we are all storytellers in some way.
But if I’m not out and about I’m usually in front of the Mac doing something creative.
So basically, you not only get to read, but also travel AND have been a tarot card reader? I wonder, whether I can adopt your personality and pretend to be good old Gav.
You might want to think about that more. Be careful what you wish for.
Anyways, do tell how your career as a professional reader went and whether or not you actually had to do some very bleak predictions?
I can’t recall making any predictions really. It’s all about focusing on particular parts of a life and weaving a story that gives people choices and self-empowerment. There is little about your own life that you don’t have some sort of choice over. A good tarot reading should cut through everything else and help you see the bits that are hidden and give you choices you may not have thought of.
A bad reading is all about letting some external force control you , which isn’t helpful as only you can change yourself and only you should control your life.
You are a book-a-holic [no shock there, I suppose], but when did your affair with literature began and what was the book that hooked you?
I think I’ve always been fascinated by reading, not that I was a great reader when I was a child. I used to get books out of the library in the hope that just having them would mean that I’d read them. I didn’t. I’d end up taking them back and usually overdue.
But I think that was more that there really weren’t any books that really excited me. I loved The Hobbit but found Lord of the Rings hard. I think I actually read it on my third attempt and even now I’ve never read until the end. I got bored on the journey home, and I’ve been told since I’ve missed out. But I guess I don’t know what I’ve missed so I’m find with that.
When I was 16/17 I was bored at lunchtime from work I went to WH Smith (a news agent/bookseller) and saw a hardback of the Witches Trilogy (Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, and Witches Abroad.) by Terry Pratchett and he was really the first author that hooked me and I read every one of his books that I could buy. Though for some strange reason I’ve never finished Mort and I stopped reading him for a few years.
I read Unseen Academicals over Christmas and now really want to read the gaps (from Monsterous Regement to Making Money if you need to know). I might even take up the Terry Pratchett challenge that is floating around to make sure I do.
The other thing that happened in SFF in the UK was SFX magazine and the internet. And at that time the Bookpage was UK’s answer to Amazon.com until Amazon.com bought them and turned Bookpages into Amazon.co.uk a couple of years later. So after I found Pratchett I was slowly able to not only find new books to read but I could actually get hold of them.
I found some great authors like Storm Constantine (Stalking Tender Prey), Dave Duncan (Great Game Trilogy), James Stoddard (The High House/The False House), Anne Rice (though I only really loved Queen of the Damned) Poppy Z. Brite (Lost Souls/Drawing Blood) to name some memorable ones but I was also reading James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell so it was real mix of thriller, crime, fantasy and sci-fi in all it’s guises. Thinking of that list has made me quite nostalgic. I miss not reading more Dark Fantasy.
As well as that in 1997 to 1999 I had a great English teacher who taught me a love of poetry and a great understanding of literature. Though I don’t read too much literary fiction any more I’ve got about a hundred poetry books on the on the shelves.. Though I haven’t bought given too much mental space to poetry for the last couple of years.
I think that’s a bit of a long answer but just about covers it.
This is what I call devotion. Way to go. But this is half the story. Tell us how you founded NextRead. What’s the story behind the blog, why did you name it that and how has it grown and changed in the years you have run it?
In that case I’ll carry on with the story. I ran away to University in 2004 and during my time there and I’m not sure how I discovered blogs and blogging. I am on some level a teacher or at least I like sharing what I’ve found in the hope that what I’ve shared is useful. I was blogging about University life, writing for my degree and what I was reading. I had a lecturer who said that book reviews are boring and I think I wanted to prove that book reviews were interesting so I included some of those on the blog. At the same time I was giving feedback and taking it for classes. I was studying Journalism modules, working on the student newspaper and doing work experience for a magazine that did a lot of reviews.
I’m very grateful to a publicist at Vintage who sent a me my first review copy in 2007 though it appeared on my old blog first. It was unsoliticed and really got me started on the idea that you could get to read books first from publishers by blogging about them. T
hough I stopped using my old blog and used NextRead.co.uk the site itself has been around since 2005 though at that time I didn’t feel I could write enough content to keep a blog going and there wasn’t the community feel that there is now.
I choose Next Read as a blog started off being a web log and I wanted to log the books that I read or that I wanted to read or make a comment on in the book world. So Next Read seems to fit. And it is a blog mostly for sharing what I enjoy. I’ve never thought of it as trying to be more than that. I just hope that my tastes overlap with the people that read it.
As I enjoy SFF, Crime, some literary fiction I feature that I’d probably scare off readers if I featured the latest poetry book I’ve bought or the non-fiction I’ve been reading. I don’t know why. I guess I should take a poll and see if people want to see more than SFF and Crime?
I hope that my reviews have got better over the years. I’ve tried a few different ways of writing them and I’ve reverted back to an old format in the New Year to try and focus my thoughts and a little more. I hope I’ve presented some different choices along with championing some little known or little blogged about books.
And I hope that my passion comes across.
Everybody on Twitter probably knows this, but you and I [now with other guys too] formed a pact [sort of] to read six novels every month. Does having this goal made official, help you reach a satisfying number or is it the competitive aspect to keep with everybody else [also possibly kick asses]?
Last year (2009) I had the goal trying to review one book a week on the blog and I managed it just but I wanted to up my game and when you came along with a challenge I couldn’t resist.
Blogging is competitive by nature. You want to bring people to your blog. Having news, reviews, giveways, features and comments all helps. But it’s also as reactive as leading. You see what other people are doing and try and match them or beat them.
It’s human nature to want to be better but you have to be realistic. I can just about manage 6 without feeling like I’m forcing myself to read. If I read more great but if I think I’m slipping behind I’m going to make sure I make the time.
January was a bit of a funny month as I posted reviews of books I read over Christmas so I had 7 reviews but only managed 5.5 books. I could have done a bit better but struggled reading Hyddenworld: Spring that brought my pace down a lot.
And having a pact does keep me on my toes. Definitely.
Also, author Mark Newton, expressed an opinion that a culture is forming among bloggers based on the motto ‘more books read for more reviews written for more content’. Should we fear that book reviewers are obsessing with strings of reviews in order to generate content and isn’t this ultimately the book reviewers’ function? I interpret this behavior as a means to deal with uncomfortably large to-be-read lists.
I think it goes back to being competitive. If someone else has 8 reviews a month then I should have 8 reviews or if they have 20 reviews then I have to have 20. Plus if you only have one review a week and nothing else are people going to come to your blog? Or do you need to have more reviews or do you have to share other things to keep people coming back?
Also if you do have this pile of books that you really want to read how do you manage to work through them all if you are only reading 4 or 6 six a month when SFF bring out 10 or 20 books in a month between them?
This is probably when you either need to accept that you aren’t superhuman and just enjoy what you read and that you have the luxury of choice of your next book or you specialize and narrow down your blogging like Mark Chitty (Walker of Worlds) or Graeme (Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review) but even those blogs are diverse.
I make it harder for myself as I enjoyed SFF and Crime as well as literary fiction on the genre edge so my TBR pile is diverse and the sources of my reading choices is wider than most.
Speaking of large TBR lists, do you ever find the time to read something that has not been supplied by publishers as review copies? And can a review blogger with an extensive lists of publishing contacts allow to pick reads for himself, when there are so many others pending?
This month I’ve so far bought The Ice Princess, and Flood. Last month I bought The Final Empire, The Skinner and Gridlinked. I guess I could have begged for review copies but sometimes it is nice to make your own choices. And review copies of mostly front list stuff so books that have just been published or about to be published. Once your book has been out a while it’s on it’s own as publicists and publishers have moved on to other books and a writers turn in the spotlight only then comes back when their next book is out.
Blogging has changed this in some ways as we aren’t the mostly timely people and we aren’t easy to control. This year I’m trying to be more timely with my reviews either by trying to review books before or just around publication. Not that it’s always possible, which goes back to only being able to fit so many books in.
I’m lucky that I have contacts that mean I’m on mailing lists, I get offered books, and I can request them. It’s something I try not to abuse though. I really don’t need another book in the house but it makes it more likely that I’m going to mention something I like if I receive it.
And reviews aren’t the only reason that people buy a book. Sometimes it’s as simple as seeing the cover or reading the blurb. So with more and more excellent books coming out getting people talking about them and excited about them is half the battle.
All the positive reviews on my blog I hope show that I’m reading books that I like with only the occasional ones that fail to agree with me.
I am very choosey about what I read. There are some books that I have let slide because I’ve put newer books over older books. I’m behind on Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series for example and I’ve failed so far to go back and read more books by Fred Vargas.
I’m also influenced by my fellow bloggers if something is getting a lot of positive reviews I want to see why so I might choose to read that one or if I feel that a book I know I’m going to like is getting any attention then I might choose that instead.
I have to say that there is no pressure from publishers to review a particular book. I have free choice over what to review and when unless I get a book that is embargoed until publication, which does happen now and again with big books.
The other thing is that publishers are realistic when it comes to reviews they welcome negative reviews as much as positive. It’s only opinion after all. And only one opinion. They are more upset that you didn’t enjoy something rather than you get it a ‘bad’ review.
Publishers want people to like their books; that means you’ll share that experience and hopefully so will others. It’s in no ones interest bloggers or publisher to have falsely positive reviews as it’s just going to be a disappointment to their readers when they find out they’ve been dupped.
Let’s side track to review copies. What do you think about e-ARCs as review copies for reviewers? I know that we all love the actual physical dimensions of the book and all the data our senses receive during the reading in order to create an experience [touch, smell and look], but with housing limitations and trees dying [sacrificed for paper] is it not a brilliant strategy from publishers to give reviewers ARC’s in electronic format?
I don’t get on with e-ARCs as I can’t read off a screen that well for long periods –sitting with a laptop is not my idea of comfort reading. You can’t relax with it. I do have a Sony Reader but PDFs don’t reflow that well on it and as I have a passion for typesetting. My eyes can’t cope. I can’t spot typos but typographical errors really annoy me so I need proper indents and formatting for my brain to slip into the grove and PDFs mostly look very bad on my ereader.
If publishers can get more properly formatted epub e-ARCS or if I mangage to get an iPad I might have more luck with PDF advance copies but for now I’m mostly reading real books though I have bought lots of ebooks and I like reading those. So for me it’s a formatting issue.
If publishers should send PDFs to reviewers probably comes down to a matter of how easy it is to do and if publishers want non-DRM copies in the world at large. I guess it comes down to trust that a reviewer isn’t going to go stick it on some file sharing site somewhere.
About your previous statement about being known and having contacts with the right people in order to get books, do you think it is a christening or a trial for each reviewer to win positions with publishers? I also come off from your statement that book blogging, despite being a friendly and community building, is also competitive.
My motivation for blogging is just to share what I've been reading or what excites me. Publicists want you to mention the books that that they have coming out and they are doing that because they genuinely want you to read it and to share that enjoyment so they are disappointed when you don’t like a book not because you've negative but because they thought you'd like it.
Should one blogger share their contacts? Most websites have contact us pages and ways to get in touch - most are now on Twitter so you can ask then there too. And I tend not to give my contacts to people unless I know and trust them. You are making a personal introduction when you give a contact and you are by association making a recommendation about that person. So it’s rare that I do share as I’m putting my own credibility behind the person I’m recommending.
If you want to get noticed by publishers then write good things about their books on your blog. Most publishers seem to stick within their own territories though I have got some US copies of books most of mine are UK based.
But it really annoys me to see new bloggers going straight in and hassling each of the publishers for review copies only because it seems to miss the point of what you’re doing and why you are doing it. If you want to review new books that badly get them the day they are and get them read and reviewed ASAP.
Support the publishers that you want books from. Review their books, promote and talk about them. If they see that you’re talking about their books because you genuinely like them that has to put you up their list of people.
The other thing is that anyone can create a blog and ask for books. It’s a competitive market. You just have to see how fast books on Twitter get snapped up. And books are limited. And demand makes interest and interest hopefully raises sales and awareness.
I tend to stay away from the big books though I will be looking at more this year as I want to see why they are considered hot. I tend to go for the middle list and debuts, which probably makes me a good place to promote books as I’m not usually after the next Abercrombie or Lynch. Though I will sell my Granny for the next Neal Asher or Gary Gibson.
With so many books to read, so many read and so many you want to read, have you ever taken an active break from reading?
I do every now and again. It’s usually over November and December when I revert to purely comfort reading. I’ve done this two years in a row. Last year I read the mind blowing Under the Dome and needed to go back to something that was enjoyable but less challenging. So I read Paul Magrs, Jim Butcher and Terry Pratchet.
If I’m away which I was for 4 weeks last year I take more books than I read. And don’t really end up reading that many. I’m not a holiday book person it seems.
The most recent scandal to shake the publishing world is the Amazon vs. Macmillan. What is your take on this feud? Who’s right and who’s wrong, but most importantly, who will be screwed in the end?
It’s a really complicated issue and it’s more an American one than a British one. What it comes down to I think is that Amazon are loosing money on each $9.99 book that they sell in order to sell Kindles not to give consumers better prices.
The pricing of ebooks is made out to be simple but it’s not really. You’re not paying for the packaging. The cost of a hardback and a paperback is only a really small percentage of the cost.
What confuses the issue is that you can often buy paperbacks and hardbacks at 40%, 50%, and 60% less than the r.r.p. but ebooks never seem to get that sort of discount but then they aren’t taking up space in a warehouse/shelf in a store and need to be sold to make space for the next product. And as ebooks aren’t physical their prices are probably a truer reflection of the price of the content.
I think it’s going to take while to shake down into something sensible though I would say this that if you want ebooks to be priced the same as the paperback price don’t complain when they are selling the hardback and the ebook at the same price. Hardbacks are a premium product and it’s the content that you are paying more for not the cover. If you want it cheaper then wait 12 months.
Another interesting scandal involves the cover whitewashing, which seems to have become a Bloomsbury trademark. Patrick from Stomping on Yeti, even speculated that the second time this may have not been a blooper, but a great marketing strategy. Do you believe in such a conspiracy and what is your general stand?
I’ve seen mention of it but it’s not something I’ve followed in detail. Covers are often only there as indications of where a book fits with others of it’s type rather than having images that are strictly 100% reflective of the content so there is a lot of license taken with them but that’s expected and the cover is usually the first stage of the attraction to particular book.
But saying that it’s a bit of a leap too far to alter the cover in such a way so that it’s more attractive to one particular set of readers by altering the colour of the image that is supposed to represent the main character.
I can understand it happening once. But twice? It’s worrying but I don’t know enough to say if it could be intentional.
A typical question would be whether you have any writing aspirations? Do you hope to be the next rising star in genre fiction?
I started blogging when I was a Degree student at the University of Glamorgan studying Creative and Professional Writing. So I’d have to say yes after that wouldn’t I? I have an underused blog called NextWord.co.uk where you can see my two failed experiments in doing NaNoWriMo. I got a 2:1 btw.
Maybe I should focus on it more? But I’m enjoying just tinkering with my writing the same as I do with photography, graphic design and painting. They are all different aspects of my personality but I’m yet to find the right story and the right way of telling it. Maybe this year I’ll get some find it?
Which is your 2010 most anticipated debut novel?
That’s unfair. I can’ just choose one. There are so many of them. But one I’ve not seen much mention of is Veteran by Gavin G. Smith.
I was lucky to meet him at Gollancz’s Autumn party, where I also met another hot debut author Sam Sykes. But Gavin’s is a little mad. And I’m hoping that it’s going to be good he has a mad imagination.
Here’s the blurb:
Three hundred years in our future, in a world of alien infiltrators, religious hackers, a vast convoying nation of Nomads, city sized orbital elevators, and a cyborg pirate king who believes himself to be a mythological demon Jakob is having a bad day: "Nothing gets in the way of a hangover like being reactivated by your old C.O and told to track down an alien killing machine. The same kind of killing machine that wiped out my entire squad. And now it's in my hometown. My name is Jakob Douglas, ex-special forces. I fought Them. Just like we've all been doing for 60 bloody years. But I thought my part in that was done with. My boss has other ideas. If I didn't find the infiltrator then he'd let the Grey Lady loose on me. And believe me; even They've got nothing on her. So I took the job. It went to shit even faster than normal. And now I'm on the run with this teenage hacker who's had enough of prostitution. The only people I can rely on want to turn the internet into God. And now it turns out that They aren't quite what we'd all thought. I've been to the bottom of the sea and the top of the sky and beyond trying to get to the truth. And I still can't get far enough away from the Grey Lady. All things considered I'd rather be back at home deep in a whiskey bottle." Veteran is a fast paced, intricately plotted violent SF Thriller set in a dark future against the backdrop of a seemingly never ending war against an unknowable and implacable alien enemy.
Let’s get back to ARCs. I have a hot one for you, which is quite easy to answer. Adele aka Hagelrat has posed the question What do you do with your ARCs and is appalled to hear that certain individuals have had the shamelessness to sell their ARCs, which is a major privilege in my book. What is your stand?
Strangely the blogging bubble is just that a bubble and ARCs as wonderful as they aren’t only produced for bloggers. They are used to promote and market the book. We are becoming a good channel for them as we have readers that share our tastes and our interested in the same books so if we like them then the people that follow us should like it too.
Booksellers also get them as do mainstream media and anyone else that a publisher chooses to send then too. So it really could be anyone putting his or her copy on eBay. It could even be a copy that has been won in a competition.
It does make me uncomfortable that bloggers could be seen as getting ARCs only to stick them on eBay.
I have a shelf of special books and I have ARCs on there so I keep most of mine but a few have ended up in the charity box.
Okay, so what is your approach to writing reviews? I have done and tried countless things in my run and it all depends on mood, time and energy levels I have. Do you have a steady work model to help you complete a review?
I’m hoping that I’ve improved as a reviewer over the years. Though last year I was mostly positive I hope that I was able to convey the contents of the book faithfully. This year I’m splitting my reviews into three parts Synopsis, Comments/Thoughts/Analysis and Summary. It’s help me frame my thoughts and keep the story away from discussions of what the strengths and weaknesses are.
I tend to think as I go unless I'm really captured by a book then I tend to be too caught up in the story to start analyzing it. I used to start a review as quickly as I could after I finished a book but now I usually leave it a day or so and I write a review before starting the next book otherwise my thoughts shift too far away from the book I’ve just read to the book I’m reading.
You, an island and a book [it can be a series as well]. What will it be?
I guess something I’ve always thought too big to read Gormenghast or Anathem?
14. If you could sleep with a book, which one would it be?
Oh that would be Martin Bauman by David Leavitt.
This is a small task right now. Sorry, but we had Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Sense $ Sensibility & Sea Monsters; Queen Victoria kills demons and I think Abe Lincoln will be a zombie hunter as well. Be creative and please try to predict which classic or historical figure could be re-imagined with such a spin.
Small task? Really? We’ve already had I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas! How about Oliver and the Faeries?
Thank you, Gav, for your participation. Please conclude this interview with your own words.
It’s been great. Thanks. I have a feeling I’ve talked more than I should but I’m very passionate about my reading!