Five Years of Underground Book ReviewsSee full issue for 2016 09-12
The ReviewerBrian L. Braden‘s website.
"But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.” – Anton Ego, from the movie Ratatouille.
This week marks Underground Book Reviews’ 5th anniversary as an advocate for independently published literature. Statistically, we shouldn’t be here. Book review blogs flash into existence almost every day, and then vanish shortly thereafter. It’s a predictable pattern. First, posts slow down, then the website announces its not accepting any new reviews. Sometimes, they will make a closing announcement, but more often than not they’ll just quit posting. Underground Book Reviews should have imploded years ago, yet here we are. I think we’re here and thriving because of four words: Vision, Quality, Persistence and Respect.
Five years ago UBR sprung to life as a little book review blog started by four aspiring authors. We met in the digital hallways of a website called Reviewfuse (sadly, it no longer exists). Having nothing in common except a mutual respect for each other’s writing, we joined forces to start an author platform to promote our books.
Amy Biddle, a sailor, came up with the idea and pitched it to the rest. Kimberly Shursen, a retired marketing professional, Katie French, a teacher, and Brian Braden (me), a recently retired military pilot, thought it was a good idea. Without having ever actually met, we jumped in and got busy reviewing books. On 15 September 2011, we kicked off Underground Book Reviews with a rundown of Michael G. Manning’s Mageborn. A few months later, we finally met in person at a writers’ conference in New York City. There, we discussed our vision of where we wanted to take not only our writing, but UBR.
Our vision was easy – a commitment to the needs of indie authors. Translated – find great indie books, get them out of the shadows and in front of potential readers. We agreed indie writers were in desperate need of a reliable, quality review site that had their interest at heart. We wanted UBR to be that outlet. We also agreed only to write one review a week. That isn’t much compared to a lot of other review blogs, but we’ve never been about volume as much as quality. Quality is why we screen and pay our reviewers and columnists. It’s also why we don’t accept free books, and buy every book we choose to review.
That vision and commitment to quality kept us going over the next three years as we made the leap from blog to small business and slowly built a team of excellent reviewers and columnists from across the US, Canada and the UK. Sometimes, however, a strong vision and commitment to quality isn’t enough. In that time, our friends Kimberly and Katie departed to concentrate on very successful writing careers.
Since then, Amy and I have had our challenges, from website crashes to run-ins with the tax man. Sometimes, just to keep us online, Amy would perform emergency internet surgery from aboard ship far out to sea with just a trickle of bandwidth. I would process submissions on my iPhone before and after long flights. Even after all of our hard work and dedication, the company found itself facing several hurdles, namely we weren’t growing and making progress toward our goals. Amy and I realized something had to change or we might have to close the doors.
By trade, Amy is a sailor and I am a pilot. Pilots and sailors have a few things in common. We like adventure. We’re not afraid to operate in hostile and exciting environments where risks are high, but so are the rewards. So we didn’t quit, we regrouped and changed.
You see, Underground Book Reviews is also a story of persistence.
In January 2016 UndergroundBookReviews.com relaunched as UndergroundBookReviews.org, with a new look, new system and new attitude. Our persistence is paying off. In the past seven months our growth has been phenomenal and we haven’t looked back. UBR is now more than a review site, but a community of indie authors. We’ve launched the Underground Certified program, revamped our Pitch Perfect Pick program, and expanded our services to not only authors, but the independent service providers that help them publish. We’ve renovated our Novel of the Year Awards and are expanding our review program, too. Oh yes, we’re also taking it on the road with personal appearances at various literary events. Other big changes are on the imminent horizon, too. Be looking for announcements that will give quality indie authors even more opportunities for access and exposure.
You, our audience, have responded in a big way. In the past six months we’ve grown to a community of over 600 indie authors and we’re adding more every day! THANK YOU! Who is the big winner? Readers, of course. UBR is on its way to becoming the place where readers can find quality, independently published novels of all genres.
A strong vision, a commitment to quality, and stubborn persistence – these are the hallmarks Underground Book Reviews carries forward. Aren’t these also the hallmarks required of a successful author? Absolutely. I think this is why we’ve connected so deeply with our core audience - indie authors. It’s our bond with you that infuses us with a deep respect for everything you must endure to bring quality fiction to your readers. We want you to succeed. As Anton Ego said in the movie Ratatouille, “The new needs friends.” That’s what UBR is all about.
Underground Book Reviews looks forward to the next five years with a strong vision of serving indie authors with quality services, delivered with a rugged persistence and deep respect for our audience.
Join us, the best is yet to come.
Brian L. Braden
Underground Book Reviews Co-Founder
Brian L. Braden‘s website.