Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An Interview with Compass Book Ratings

I'm excited to present today's interview. As I've said in a previous blogpost, there has been a growing number of people who struggle to make reading choices based on the content of books. It's frustrating to get a book many people have recommended or raved about, only to find that what they are desensitized to, you are not, and you end up tossing the book. I remember abandoning all books of a certain genre for a number of years because every book I looked at had things in it I didn't want to experience or read about. I wished there were rating systems for books, or some kind of guide to let me know in advance what I was borrowing or buying. A little prevention at the get go saves lots of bad reviews later on. So I was recently delighted to find that I wasn't the only one who felt that way. In fact there were entire groups and websites springing up of like-minded people. Their reasons may vary, but this growing community is not something that can be lightly brushed off.

Personally, I'm not out to censor books or burn any author or genre at the stake. Everyone has different tastes and the cool thing is you can usually find books to match. But with rating and review services specifically geared towards informing readers of book content, it makes the finding easier.

So today I'd like to present:

Let's get right into the interview:

1. How did Compass Book Ratings get started?

In 2009, two sisters, Melissa and Shelley, started SqueakyCleanReads.com, a book website providing detailed content reviews in the areas of violence, profanity, sexual content, and mature themes.  The hope was that those reviews could help people choose books that were appropriate for them and their family.  SqueakyCleanReads.com went through several transformations as site users provided feedback.  At the end of 2011, it became clear that it was time for SqueakyCleanReads.com to go through another transformation.  Cindy, a reviewer, assumed management and ownership of the website and Compass Book Ratings was born.  The website went through a major re-design in early 2012 and a searchable database was created.  We have gone from 228 book reviews on March 19, 2012 (the launch date of Compass Book Ratings) to over 2,000 book reviews today.To learn more about us visit our ABOUT US Page and our MEET THE REVIEWERS Page

2. How has Compass Book Ratings been received? Has there been a lot of positive feedback?

From site users we have had positive comments.  Our website is often referred to in articles that are against the rating of books, so that could be interpreted as somewhat negative.  The literary community seems very set against any kind of rating system for books.The rating of books seems to be a polarizing issue with many parties on both sides of the issue.

3. What is Compass Book Ratings’ criteria when selecting books to review?

We review books for middle grade, young adult, and adult readers.  We found that adults concerned about content levels in books for their children also were interested in finding low-content reading material for themselves.We review all the main genres.  Obviously, we don’t pick up titles like 50 Shades of Gray that are widely known to be high in content.We accept website user requests for title reviews.  We are also sent titles from publishers for review.  Our reviewers pick up many titles on their own that they are interested in or that are popular for their review demographic.

4. What has been the most rewarding thing/experience to come from establishing Compass Book Ratings?

Fan mail!  It is a big web out there and sometimes you wonder if anyone cares or even finds your website.  When a site user takes a moment to thank us for our service (which everyone at Compass Book Ratings is doing out of the generosity of their heart and which is currently free), it is very encouraging.

5. What goals for the future do the people behind Compass Book Ratings’ have, in regards to their services and website?

We have over 1,900 reviews in our database and we look forward to adding to that number substantially in the next couple of years.  We don’t have a number goal because we see no reason to stop. We would especially like to make technological improvements to our site to improve speed and provide other functions, but that will have to wait until site traffic is high enough to generate advertising revenue sufficient to cover those pricey programmers.

6. How can others get involved in promoting clean books?

The first thing you can do is talk about it; let your children, teachers, and friends know how you feel.  Next, support the websites that provide information about content with your Tweets, Facebook Likes, etc. and by purchasing through the links on their website to give them financial support.  Tell your friends about the websites you like. An increase in traffic to websites usually leads to an increase in revenue for that website which provides more resources for content review. We have noticed that a lot of sites start, but then are short-lived.  Finally, if you are passionate, there are occasionally petitions floating around requesting book ratings and you can always join those campaigns.

You can find, support, and follow Compass Book Ratings on:
Their website

I'd like to publicly thank Cindy for responding to my request for an interview. And I'd like to say thank you to her and the others at Compass Book Ratings and other like sites and groups for the volunteer work they do. It's a lot of work, organization, and time.

It should be noted that Compass Book Ratings are not accepting requests to review self-published books at this time. You can find their submission guidelines here.

I love how they've organized the site to search based on title or author, or you can weed things out based on your criteria. They also sponsor book giveaways and post reading lists. Take a few moments to check them out.

For authors and bloggers who'd like to participate in the Speculative Fiction Book Spotlight Blog Swap, this is the week to make your decision and submit your information. Take advantage of the free publicity and opportunity to get your book(s) spotlighted, or to support authors who have written clean speculative fiction. You can find out more about it here. Your information won't be added to any mailing lists or given out to anyone. What do I get out of it? Nothing but the satisfaction of helping some of my fellow authors, and that's a reward in and of itself.

Other groups and sites that help make book content known:
There are a number of groups on Goodreads
Clean Indie Reads on Facebook

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