Q & A with Tessa Smith McGovern, founder of BookGirlTV, award-winning writer and teacher at the Writing Institute, Sarah Lawrence College.
Q: What’s different about BookGirlTV?
A: Well, we’re curating material, so we only feature books that are exceptional in some way. We’re like that one staff member in your local bookstore – you know their taste, and can use their recommendations to decide if you want a particular book. (To find out what sort of books we review, to submit a book for review and/or read the review policy, please go to Reviews.)
Q: What is BookGirlTV’s goal?
A: To keep books, and reading, front and center in the digital age and to save readers time and money by making it easier, and more fun, to find the right book.
Q: Why do we need BookGirlTV video interviews and BUZZes when we have online sites like Amazon/Goodreads and Bookish?
A: We scour the literary landscape for the best books, tell you what they’re about and respond rigorously to positive and negative reviews posted online. We only feature books that are worth the cover price, and that deserve our whole-hearted attention. It’s tricky, sometimes, to identify the best books that will entertain and enlarge us as human beings, the ones that are truly worth our time and money. If you enjoy one or two of the books we feature, chances are you’ll like others.
Also, when readers watch an in-depth interview with an author and learn about their lives and the various challenges they’ve had, it makes reading their book all the more enriching.
Q: Why is it hard to identify the most worthwhile books?
A: Well, apart from the glut of book advertising, the goal of many book blurbs is simply to sell the book. This leads, too often, to unrealistic hype which results in disappointed book-buyers who abandon a book half-way. Even famous author blurbs, often necessarily brief, can set the wrong expectations.
Tessa says, “We need book recommendations that accurately set a reader’s expectations. With reviews on Amazon, even those written by a genuine reader (as opposed to a paid reviewer or a friend), it can be hard to know to how (or if) that person’s sensibilities line up with your own. Most people read up and down the literary spectrum; we’re willing to adjust our expectation of a book the same way we do with a film – we don’t go to the movies expecting the same experience from a Batman movie as a Wes Anderson movie – but we need to know in advance what to expect. Many people read a ‘light’ novel one week and something more literary and challenging the next. What’s missing is a recommendation that tells you what to expect, warts and all.
“There’s value, still, in a book that isn’t perfect, as long as the overall reading experience is still worth our time.”
“For non-fiction, we need to know what problem the book solves or what topic it addresses, and is it the best book on the market? Is it worth my $15 (or whatever) and will the whole book be useful or, again, will I end up abandoning it halfway through?
BGTV’s goal is to provide thoughtful, accurate recommendations that fit in the space between the (sometimes ridiculous) reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and the PR blurb on book jacket covers. Something that tells the truth about what a reader should expect.”