Monday, October 24, 2005

PANEL: Reader Sites



Wayne Jordan - Color of Romance, Cydney Rax - Book Remarks, LaShaunda C. Hoffman -Shades Of Romance, Tee Royal - RAW Sistaz

Learn about a few sites for readers.

Post your questions in the comments section.

Please read the previous comments before you post, so we don’t have duplicate questions.

Please address your questions to a panel member or all panel members.


SORMAG said...

I started SORMAG because the weren't many sites or magazine that featured African- American romance writers. As a fan, I wanted to learn more about the writers and their books.

Five years ago, I started the site that grew into award winning magazine. We were even featured in Essence magazine. One of the highlights of publishing the magazine.

I've met many authors and had a chance to introduce those authors to our readers. We currently have a readership of 16,000.

Right now the magazine is on haitus; however the site will continue to be updated and feature an author each week, which will be linked to this blog.

The site hosts our Online bookstore, which features books with links to purchase through Amazon books or Barnes and Noble.

The blog is a new way to promote authors and books to readers. Its more up todate than the site, because we can post information quickly and its interactive because the readers can respond to information posted.

Our goal is to continue introducing readers to the current multi-cultural writer and their books.

SORMAG said...

Panel Members,

Please tell us about your site.

rootwomin said...


this is directed to all of the panelists.

what inspired you to create the sites you moderate?

how do you choose the books that participants read?

how do you find participants?

do you ever organize face-to-face meetings?

meri #129

Wayne said...

Hi Everyone:

I'm the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Romance in Color, one of the most popular AA sites on the internet. However, our focus is on the African-American romance novel thought we've expanded to include what most call AA Woman's Fiction.

RIC debuted in late 1998 as a result of the lack of websites that focus on AA romance. I remember when we started years ago it was just Melanie Schuster and I who did the reviewing. Ironically, we both write for the same publisher and line - The former BET Arabesque.

In the early days, we purchasd all of the books available to us - four Arabesque romances. It's interesting to see how the genre had expanded. We now review 10 - 20 books per month and have more that 5 reviewers.

My aim has always been the promotion of African-American romance and the authors. We continue to do this.

Running a site like this has its up and down especially since we're not a profit making organization and do not advertising etc.

One of the most difficult aspect is the consistency of the reviewing and finding good reviewers who're willing to keep to deadlines and submit reviews. I've had several experiences with individuals who came on staff, took books and never submitted reviews.

As a reviewer, I also want to see reviewing become more of a profession, than a hobby, where the elements of proper critical analysis are evident. Too many website promote reviews that focus more on the summary of the book as good reviewing...but that's another story...

Thanks for allowing me to share with you.


BlackButterflyReview said...

My question is how do you go about spreading the word about your site? Also, when you are requesting books, do you ever encounter authors not responding to your request?

Eleanor (#17)

Tempie said...

Good Morning!!!

My questions are directed to each member of the panel:

1). How has starting your online book club effected your personal writing and/or reading career?

2). What is your vision for your bookclub say five years down the road?

*** A special thanks to Tee Royal-RAW Sistaz...we appreciate you!!!

I joined Memphis-Raw Sistaz April of this year-Alisha Yvonne-President.

We have 16 members and of those, 5 are published authors (2 new authors books about to be released including One other member, a published author Badge # 158 is attending the conference. All other members are aspiring writers or avid readers. Come and meet us at:

* We all inspire and encourage one another and can feel the growth!!!

Tempie Badge #151

rootwomin said...


this is directed to wayne.

would you speak a bit more about critical book reviews vs summaries ?

i'm wondering where a writer could learn more about that technique of reviewing and if you have an example of one on your website would you please name the book so i can check it out?

thank you,
meri #129

Tee C. Royal said...

Greetings all!

I am Tee C. Royal, the founder of RAWSISTAZ Literary Group and its sister entities. I started RAWSISTAZ (Reading and Writing SISTAZ) in September of 2000 because I was stuck in a small town where I didn't know anyone -- the town was between two major cities. I felt online would be a good arena to meet like-minded individuals and discuss books and authors. Also, I had just started hearing about more African-American authors and wanted to have a forum for focusing on their works. At the time I started RAWSISTAZ, it was to be an online book club and has expanded into not just a book club, but a well-rounded resource for readers, writers, and other literary enthusiasts. The website, which started out as a bit of a highlight into what the group was doing is now more literary focuses and covers the spectrum of the literary industry.

Our major site: is the place where you can find information on what we're reading, author information, book information, new releases, literary event postings, and resources for both readers and writers. We have been mentioned in Essence and Black Expressions and have reviewed for several online and print magazines.

We also have a review team established in January 2001 to review and promote African-American titles. The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers have reviewed over 3000 titles to date and recently launched a new site to pull those reviews from the main RAWSISTAZ page. It is located at or This is a repository for our reviews and is utilized by authors, publicists, and publishing companies interested in getting more exposure for their books as well as readers interested in particular book(s). Our review services are free of charge and we currently have a review staff of 15 with 5 guest reviewers.

We are committed to the services our sites provide and stand by our motto of "Keeping you In the Know regarding the African-American Literary community."

Until next time, keep on reading and writing...

-Tee C. Royal
Founder, RAWSISTAZ Literary Group
"Combining Literature and Sisterhood"

Tee C. Royal said...

Meri, thanks for your questions, I touched a bit on the inspiration for RAWSISTAZ already, the main push for the site was to increase the awareness of the authors and books. For the online groups, we first pick themes for the year and then quarterly our members nominate books and then we vote on them via polls.

Finding participants hasn't really been a major task as you can always find someone who wants to talk about books. One of the biggest challenges has been keeping folks actually reading and discussing books vs only participating in a lot of off-topic, non-literary posts. I have also found that having a serious book club (RAWSISTAZ) separate from a literary hang-out (RAW4ALL) helps members who want to be a part of RAWSISTAZ commit as their time allows.

As for face-to-face meetings, RAWSISTAZ has our yearly reunion, The RAWSISTAZ Affair. We set this up early on so we could all get together and put faces to the email addresses. It's a great time for coming together and sharing in the things we love, great networking, great workshops and panels, and most of all...good fellowship between readers and writers.

Thanks for stopping by.


Tee C. Royal said...

Oops...I'm a bit long-winded if you all hadn't noticed. I'm working on that! So, this post I will address the other issues on the floor vs replying in separate replies.

Eleanor, I've utilized advertising RAWSISTAZ on sites, in ad booklets, etc., but what works best is word of mouth. Readers and writers visiting the site will share with others and this helps tremendously, especially if the site has information they will want to keep updated on. It also helps to post links on sites which have a l links section. Please be sure to email me yours and I'll get it on the RAW site during the November updates.

I hardly ever request books anymore as it got to the point several years back where I almost felt like I was begging to provide a free service that would ultimately help the author. I will occasionally request a book, but if it doesn't come in or there is no reply, I don't focus on it too much. For me...odds are I'm going to buy it anyway, so I just "donate" the review when I can get to it.

Hey Tempie, nice shout out and kudos to Memphis RAWSISTAZ. Y'all are doing it up! To answer your questions, starting the group has pretty much consumed my life. I spend more time doing RAWSISTAZ-related stuff than anything else in my life. Sad huh? I really don't have a life. LOL. When I first started, I worked a full-time job (Air Force) but after having my first child, I became a SAHM. This has helped somewhat, but RAWSISTAZ is a full-time job or two to be truthful. I have no idea how I managed both when working. I do what I have to do to get everything done though. Besides...who needs sleep? 5-Years down the road, I hope to have completely established and put into action the empire I've been building. I would like to see RAWSISTAZ as a major player in the literary arena, on all fronts.

*And ummm, do tell about your book and let me know what I can do to help support you!

Thanks again both of you for your questions. It's a pleasure to be on this panel and I look forward to more questions and also learning more about the other panelists and their sites.

-Tee C. Royal

Linda said...

These questions are for all our panelists.

1. Do you see your services as a way of helping the author improve their craft as well as being a valuable marketing ally?

2. What is view of self-published authors?

3. Have you ever selected POD works for discussion/review?

Linda! Badge #141

Tee C. Royal said...

Hi Linda,

1. I see the services as both. Constructively pointing out problems in their work can help them improve. Additionally, it's important to get the word out there about the books. Announcing the book release, sharing what it's about, spotlighting the author, posting their links...all of this is a plus on the marketing side. For the extra boost, there is low-cost advertising which I've recently implemented on the RAWSISTAZ site to offset some of the out-of-pocket expenses.

2. I don't really look at self-published authors too differently than mainstream other than I can get their book directly from them and they keep all the profits. Our site doesn't cater to one over the other.

3. Yes, we have selected POD works for both review and discussion. If they're nominated and voted on, we read them. If it's sent in for review, we do a review. For those selected as the book of the month, I try to work directly with the author to buy the books in bulk.

-Tee C. Royal

SORMAG said...

My question is how do you go about spreading the word about your site? Also, when you are requesting books, do you ever encounter authors not responding to your request?

Eleanor (#17)

Hi Eleanor,

I spreaded the word online, by visiting other sites and forums. A link at the end of my email. Introducing myself to authors and readers.

As for reviews I contacted the publishers and asked to be on their lists. When I first started out I asked authors or they contacted me. Once we were on the publisher's review lists, they came in. I don't contact authors any longer, they contact us.

Until the publishers take you serious, its hard to get on their review list, mainly because people take books and never give a review. I had that problem a couple of times with reviewers, but the last group were great and loved to read and review.

SORMAG said...

this is directed to all of the panelists.

how do you choose the books that participants read?

how do you find participants?

do you ever organize face-to-face meetings?

meri #129

The books actually choose me. SORMAG usually reviews the books we receive for review. Some authors introduce themselves and send a book. Usually once a month I sent out reviews to our reviewers. We had a staff of 20 reviewers.

I'm assuming you mean reviewers by participants. I found all my reviewers online. When I first started I put out messages looking for reviewers. At the time we did romances only. When we moved to mainstream and non-fiction, I put out another call for reviewers. I usually test a reviewer with two books. If I didn't hear back from them, they didn't get anymore books. Most reviewers enjoy receiving books before everyone else, so they usually sent the reviews in.

I've only done one face to face with Beverly Jenkins. She came to St. Louis and we sat up dinner meet with her.

In the beginning we use to do chats twice a month. It was fun way to interact with the authors.

Tempie said...

Thanks for answering both of my questions!!! Also, thanks for asking about my book and supporting me.

Currently I am in the process of finalizing my proofs and cover design with my editor and publisher. I am going mainstream traditional publishing and as soon as my press release is finalized I will send a copy to

*Hopefully this will be my first of many novels to come!!! *The title is:
*It's a southern fiction novel with subtle christian undertones and a taste of
Thanks Tempie
Badge #151

BlackButterflyReview said...

Tee, Thank you for the information and I will send you my link.
LaShaunda, thank you for your information and for the opportunity to be one of your reivewers. Just reading and reviewing for SORMAG taught me so much. You will never know how much your confidence in me meant to me. Much Respect and gratitude.

Eleanor (#17)

Wayne said...


1.Do you see your services as a way of helping the author improve their craft as well as being a valuable marketing ally?

I hope that with the kind of reviews we do, that authors will find some value in what a reviewer says. However, as is often said, a review is only one person's opinion. As I've said before, reviews at RIC are not about giving a summary of the story and a brief critical comments at the end. We try to make our reviews as critical as possible. And when I say critical, I mean looks at what works and what doesn't.

2. What is view of self-published authors?

I admire anyone who has the courage to go that route, but I've always been very concerned about self-published books and RIC rarely reviews them or ebooks. I've found self-published books in the past to be often poorly proofed and generally only ok reads. That's not to say this has not changed in recent times, but for now we continue to do reviews of major publishers. However, this can change if a reviewer comes on board who's interested in reviewing them.

3. Have you ever selected POD works for discussion/review?


Wayne said...

TO rootwomin:

Contact me at

RIC guidelines encourage reviewers to look at the elements of the story and are expected to comment on the following if appropriate:
Characterization, use of dialogue, setting, the plot and pacing, and any other element of style.

Take a look at my comments on a recent RIC review. The review is below.

In paragraph 1 & 2, the reviewer gives an introductor comment and a brief summary of the book.

In paragraph 3, she looks at the structure of the story.

Paragraph 4, characterization.

Paragraph 5, setting

Paragraph 6, a statement about Ms. Byrd's use of dialogue which she consideres to be one of the author's strenghts.

Paragraph 7, a final concluding statement.

Adrianne Byrd
BET Arabesque
4+ rating

Sometimes the things you long for most are those you are most afraid to obtain because you may have to sacrifice what you already have in the attempt. Taking that leap of faith however and following your heart is the only way to true happiness; a hard lesson for many of the characters in the book.

In THE BEAUTIFUL ONES two best friends come to a crossroads in their relationship at the wedding of a third friend. Solomon Bassett, who has been secretly in love with his best friend Ophelia Missler since childhood days, is devastated when he learns that Ophelia has become engaged. He realises that he missed a myriad of opportunities to tell Ophelia how he feels. He now faces the excruciating prospect of walking out of her life forever or enduring the torture of watching her have a life and love with another man. For her part, Ophelia must determine who and what she really wants and what risks and sacrifices she is willing to make to obtain her dreams.

Ms. Byrd employs a storytelling technique of jumping back and forth between the past and the present but manages to keep the tempo of the book consistent. The reader is moved along in the story at precisely the pace needed to get to know the characters but for everything to stay vivid and interesting.

All of the players in the book are extremely well crafted. Great writing has provided characters all of who have clear personalities that are distinct and likeable. The reader is equally invested in all of their lives such that one is almost cheering for each character’s individual success and happiness even though that isn’t possible. Ophelia’s fiancĂ© Jonas is an excellent example.

The different locales in THE BEAUTIFUL ONES are artfully used, not only to keep the book interesting, but also to frame the events in the characters’ lives and the changes in their relationships. Prime examples of this are the closet in Lisa’s house and the hotel in Cancun.

Ms. Byrd’s dialogue, as always, is one of the best elements of the novel. She manages to infuse the story with humour and fun while remaining real. Solomon’s arguments with Ophelia and the affection between the three friends demonstrate her talent in this domain.

Adrianne Byrd has written another hit. She has taken a familiar concept, with a narrative storytelling technique as her foundation, and created a novel full of love, hope and poignancy that is lively, romantic and heartbreaking all in one. Encased in Ms. Byrd’s trademark wit and sass THE BEAUTIFUL ONES is a definite buy and great read. I can’t wait for her next book

CydneyR said...

I'm Cydney Rax, founder and webpage manager of The site has been in existence for almost six years. It is not a book club; we do not conducts author chats; we mostly focus on promoting upcoming novels, post literary industry news, feature book previews, literary events, and some book reviews. The response to Book-Remarks is extremely encouraging. In doing a little research I've discovered that the site is used as a resource for readers, writers, and even libraries. People like to know what books are coming out and enjoy visiting the site for various author/literary info. We recently started a listing of author blogs and will also post publishing industry questions and answers for those writers who want to know more about the industry.

I'm also an author; my debut novel was published in summer 2004 - title is My Daughter's Boyfriend. So I enjoy being on both sides of the fence. Promoting authors and being one myself. I love what I do so much and am astounded at the love and support of authors, publishing houses, and readers across the nation.

Visit the site at

CydneyR said...

I'll answer a few of the questions:

1.Do you see your services as a way of helping the author improve their craft as well as being a valuable marketing ally? is definitely a valuable marketing ally. We can help promote your book (self-published or mainstream) using various methods. You can send in press releases about your book, let us know what's scheduled to be released a year or two from now, we can post a link to author websites, and you can even donate a few books for our monthly random book giveaways.

In terms of craft, hmmm, we do not offer online writing courses like some of the other sites do, but we do provide links to writer resources which some may find helpful.

CydneyR said...

Here is another question:

My question is how do you go about spreading the word about your site? Also, when you are requesting books, do you ever encounter authors not responding to your request?

For me, I think word-of-mouth is how people find out about BookRemarks. Or they may conduct a search on specific authors and come across the site. I do not do any advertising, to be honest, in terms of getting people to know about the site. Works for me. :)

Hmm, I rarely request books - but yeah, there are times when you may ask for a book but it never arrives. I do not worry about that because there are too many other books that show up in the mail which is exciting. I don't try to place a lot of pressure on any author. Just use what you've got and make the most of it. That seems to work!

CydneyR said...

I'll answer MakeMoney's questions:

1). How has starting your online book club effected your personal writing and/or reading career?

Hmm, great question. When was created, the main goal was to bring awareness to new books, to showcase authors. But as a result of having the site, in the early days, when I was seeking a book deal, important contacts were made within the industry. I'd do a lot more author interviews back then (such as Carl Weber and Trisha R. Thomas) and both of them referred me to the people that became my agent and editor. So having the site absolutely affected (and launched) my own author goals. But it is important to note that you should always create these author and book promotion websites because you love authors, not because you're trying to get a book deal (LOL). It just happened to work that way for me. I was a writer FIRST, then an author promoter. I am just blessed enough to get to do both right now and it is a wonderful feeling.

2). What is your vision for your bookclub say five years down the road?

Haha. I am shocked the site is still in existence. I mean, it's like when you get a job and it's 20 years later, and you're still with the same company. You never imagined you'd be there so long. But seriously I hope to continue doing what I do. I LOVE and can envision it being in the cyberworld for a long, long time. Readers and authors make the site what it is!!

BlackButterflyReview said...

Thank you Cydney for the advice. I like your philosophy.

Eleanor (#17)

CydneyR said...

Hi Eleanor (#17)

I JUST discovered the Memphis RAWSISTAZ website yesterday and it is awesome. Y'all keep up the good work!!


Barbara said...


I would like to more about your novel and how you went about finding a publisher. Please email me a

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