Akashic Interviews Ron Hogan, Founder of A More Diverse Book Review
“White male writers,” says longtime book reviewer Ron Hogan, “get covered disproportionately in book reviews. Let’s do something about that.” Last week, he announced his partnership with the Beacon Reader to create A More Diverse Book Review. The Beacon Reader utilizes a riff on cloud sourcing to fund reporters and their stories, and Ron found it a perfect platform to launch his new venture to help restore a gender and ethnic balance to book reviewing.
Hogan first came on the publishing scene with one of the first literary blogs, Beatrice.com, in the 1990s, and has served as the senior editor of the publishing news site GalleyCat. He’s currently a contributing editor at Shelf Awareness. The Beacon Reader’s funding model allows readers to directly back original reporting with small donations, and Hogan met his funding goal within a week, and will begin posting 2-4 reviews a month. Evidently, Ron’s readers are hungry for more diverse reviews. Last week, we asked him about how the Beacon Reader entered his radar . . .
Akashic Books: Were you toying around with the idea of a A More Diverse Book Review independent of your participation in the Beacon Reader, or did the two ideas coincide?
Ron Hogan: I’ve been thinking about the issues of diversity in book coverage for a long time (see this 2012 Beatrice post, for example), and I’ve worked on expanding my reading choices, but it simply wasn’t economically feasible for me to launch a full-scale column on Beatrice; it would take up too much time I needed for paid freelance work.
Then I discovered Beacon, where subscribers choose to support specific writers with a portion of their monthly fee. Beacon has a lot of great journalists, but they didn’t have anyone doing book reviews, and I saw that as an opportunity—and the publishers at Beacon agreed.
AKB: Do you see online and other projects like A More Diverse Book Review having an effect on literary coverage in more mainstream media outlets?
RH: I certainly hope so, although I don’t have any illusions about turning the literary world on its ear overnight. The overall goal, though, is to demonstrate to media outlets that have refused to deviate from the current way they select the books and writers they cover that a deliberately inclusive approach 1) makes it no harder to find great books to cover, 2) in no way diminishes the level of literary conversation, and 3) attracts a significant readership.
I’m confident that this approach can succeed because of everything we’ve seen in the “struggle” between mainstream book review outlets and blogs over the last decade. Namely, years of calumny and abuse from the mainstream media, followed by just about every single one of them creating their own book blog because they could see that’s where more and more people were turning to not just for information about books, but discussion.
AKB: How do you prefer to read review copies—as physical or e-books? How should interested publishers get their More Diverse books on your radar?
RH: I do still read a fair amount of print ARCs, but as my eyesight slowly deteriorates, and as the available space in my office shrinks, I’ve come to prefer reading digital galleys. I find out about a lot of upcoming releases through NetGalley and Edelweiss now, and the digital access actually makes me a bit more willing to take a look at some titles because I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to put them while I’m trying to decide whether to read them.
People have asked if I’ll be covering digital-only releases and independently published titles, and I’m very open to both possibilities. The caveat, of course, is that I’ll only be writing about 25-30 reviews a year, at least at first, so any such book would have to be remarkable enough to make the cut. As far as getting in touch with me goes, it’s the same as it’s always been, through ronhogan.net. It’s easier to query me first, and then if I’m interested, and you don’t have a digital ARC available, I can tell you how to mail me a book.
AKB: Have you decided which book will receive your inaugural Diverse Book Review? When will the first review appear?
RH: The first review should be appearing by President’s Day—knock on wood, well before then. I have a couple books in mind for the first few columns, but I’ll need to check the publication dates to see what makes sense.
Readers can subscribe to A More Diverse Book Review—and to all of the other reporting on the the Beacon Reader—for a very modest fee, by clicking here. The first books slated for review are Erin Lindsay McCabe’s I Shall Be Near to You and Alex Myers’s Revolutionary.
Posted: Feb 18, 2014
Category: Akashic in Good Company | Tags: Akashic in Good Company, interview, Shelf Awareness, Ron Hogan, A More Diverse Book Review, Beacon Reader, diversity, lit, book review, Beatrice.com, GalleyCat
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