Interrogation: J. David Osborne

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Who: J. David Osborne

What: Publisher-in-chief of Broken River Books, a small press dedicated to publishing strange, left-of-center, transgressive fiction. He is also the author of five books, including the Wonderland-Award-winning BY THE TIME WE LEAVE HERE, WE’LL BE FRIENDS and his most recent, BLACK GUM. He lives with his partner and their dog.

Where: Portland, Oregon

Black GumI just finished reading BLACK GUM and was blown away. As a reader who writes reviews, I thought I’d ask your opinion of my review:
I think that’s a very kind review that does a good job of articulating how the book made you feel. You also provide punchy details that would pique my interest. 5/5, would read again.

We all know that reader reviews are a valuable tool for writers and publishers, but is it a double-edged sword? Do you even bother to read the reviews? When you do, do you read as a writer or a publisher?

I usually take about an hour out of the month to dig through Goodreads and Amazon and get up-to-date on what people are saying about the BRB catalog, or my own stuff. It’s kind of thrilling in its way. But I think balance is key. You can’t check that shit every day, because for one it’s a suck on your time, and secondly it creates manic, impulsive, obsessive behavior. I’ve seen writers go nuts, checking their Amazon page over and over. That’s like dropping your kid off at kindergarten, then hovering around the school, worrying. It’s bad for you, and it’s bad for the kid.

On the other hand, you have to take the temperature. You have to get a sense of what’s working for people, and what’s not. And also, folks take the time out of their day to write those reviews, so I think within reason it’s good manners to take a look at their feedback.

Outside of my personal relationship with reader reviews, they are objectively important to the success of a book. And I value the fact that a lot of folks out there take a minute or two to give their opinions. Authors work long hours and live inside strange bubbles, and to put all that work into something and then sell it for incredibly low prices (I mean, think about it…these books occasionally take years to write…and then LDDREthey’re available for a buck online). So, if you’re getting a little piece of someone for dirt cheap, I think it’s the right thing to do to at least pass the book on, whether it’s to a friend or to strangers on a website.

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