Yesterday, we launched Book Marks, a work in progress (as was Literary Hub, when it launched, and still is). To get it right, we are relying on the literary community: writers, critics, editors, agents, booksellers, publishers, and, most importantly, readers. Over the last 24 hours, through a variety of platforms, we have received a lot of input, the beginning of a conversation that we hope will see Book Marks grow into a site that is important for writers, readers, and critics alike.
Our goal with Book Marks is to help readers discover good books, spotlight books that deserve attention, and to lead more readers to insightful critical writing. (To that point, yesterday Book Marks referred over 3,200 visitors to reviews on external sites.) Our methodology is to assign letter grades to reviews from a diverse range of critical outlets (and we encourage you to suggest others), aggregate them into a cumulative grade, and include links to the full, original reviews. This methodology is what we want to hear from everyone about. (See below for contact info and the best ways to give us your input.)
Some of our readers have expressed dismay at the idea of assigning a rating to a work of criticism, which then becomes a grade for a work of art—a book. It feels reductionist and simplistic, and tarnishes the idea of both criticism and literature as art. This is a fair and reasonable position, and we are taking it seriously as we look to make Book Marks a better, more useful resource.
Currently, there are aggregations of readers’ reviews and ratings online which are a valuable resource when considering what to read next. But there remains a wealth of great writing out there from critics who’ve dedicated their lives to reading books, thinking about books, and writing about books, and Book Marks brings that together in one place.
Your concerns are very important to us. We believe Book Marks can be a smart and useful site for all book-lovers, so we invite you to participate: in the comment section of this post, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter, Facebook. We’re open to presenting a more nuanced reflection of criticism and are eager to hear your suggestions—together, we hope to build Book Marks into something that benefits readers, critics, and authors alike.
*An earlier version of this note was signed “The Book Marks staff,” which is not a wholly separate entity from the Lit Hub staff; there is, in fact, a lot of overlap of responsibilities between the two sites.