Bookmarks Reviews: Ecosystem Resource

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Literary Hub launched in 2016 to provide a Rotten-Tomatoes style resource for opinion-aggregation of books, thus helping readers know if the expertise milieu reveals a ‘rave’ agreement or otherwise.

Writer Waverly March
Waverly March

Waverly March, a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow, works for Bookmarks. Their writing (as Waverly SM) has appeared in We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction 2020 (Neon Hemlock, 2021), Stim: An Autistic Anthology (Unbound, 2020), Lucent Dreaming, SAND, and Catapult. They can currently be found trying to approximate the anchorite lifestyle on the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.

Waverly and I were Lambda Literary Fellows together, and we recently caught up about their work at Bookmarks. (Of course: All that Waverly shares in this interview speaks for themselves, not for Bookmarks.)

Todd: Congrats on your new work with What attracted you to this opportunity, and what do you get to accomplish for them?

Waverly: Thank you! I was fortunate to be pointed toward this opportunity by a friend who works for LitHub who knew I was looking for additional work. 

The work I do for entails seeking out reviews, distilling them down into quotes that encapsulate the reviewer’s critical opinion, assigning a ‘rating’ that reflects the reviewer’s opinion of the book’s quality, and ensuring that it’s all uploaded correctly to the site. The back-end of the site does the work of aggregating the ‘ratings’ into an overall score. I don’t have any high-level input into decision-making.

I think of it as editorial work, after a fashion, and it makes me happy in the same way that editing my friends’ work usually does – it makes me think, and it keeps me engaged with the culture in which I operate as a creative writer, and there’s a lot of value for me in both of those things. is for people who are interested not just in whether a book is ‘good’, by whatever metric we’re defining that, but in the informed opinion of readers who are steeped in a culture of reading critically.

– Waverly March

TW: appears to naturally believe in a writing and reading ecosystem, one in which all the parts like independent bookstores, review publications, and publishers are important. What helps keep this true for the site?

WM: I think it’s the nature of a review aggregation site to take this approach, personally. Everything talks to everything else – I’ve been a bookseller, so I know this is true – and it takes input and insight from every part of the ecosystem to help a title do well. Perhaps it’s naive of me, but I don’t think the site would exist if not for that ethos. It stays true for the site because the existence of the site requires it to be true, if that makes sense.

TW: Whose questions does the site answer, and what are those questions? And who is asking them?

WM: is for people who are interested not just in whether a book is ‘good’, by whatever metric we’re defining that, but in the informed opinion of readers who are steeped in a culture of reading critically.

That’s probably a very worthy view to take of critics. But the fact is that I, as a reader, do not want to decide what to read next based on another site’s review that could have been written anonymously by anyone. I don’t exactly decide what to read next based on a review from a particular publication, either. But I do want to see how people with a degree of insight into the work of reading and writing are responding to a book, so that their responses can inform my choices. If I’ve never heard of the book before, and a critical insight introduces me to something new, so much the better. aggregates critical opinion – the critical insights are what we pull for our quotes when listing a review – for readers with an interest in critical opinion and literary culture. I feel like the site is working when I get to compile reviews for a weird, off-the-wall title that I would never have encountered otherwise, so that other people can encounter it as well.

TW: What are your hopes for regarding smaller press coverage?

WM: Insofar as we have a metric for this, once we find three reviews for a new title – regardless of its publisher – that title is added to our to-do list for its publication week. If a new title has many reviews, it’s flagged as urgent and we make it a priority. Of course, some big-name review publications tend to favor books from larger presses.

TW: What’s something recent in life that’s made you smile?

WM: I decided that I’m going to build my wedding outfit around black trousers (‘pants’ in American – I’m planning to immigrate so I am trying to learn the language) with an elaborate gold knife pattern on them. No regrets; total conviction; I will meet the wedding industrial complex in hell.

Waverly has a round-up of their published work available at their website, and you can subscribe to their newsletter documenting their travels in North America here.

This interview has been edited for clarity. Read more about my nonfiction writing here.

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