Hey friends, Liz here. Today I have the pleasure of introducing one of my favorite pals – and hardcore book reviewer – John Valeri. John and I met the first time I attended the Seascape Writer’s Retreat (jeez, was that in 2007? How can that be??) and I was immediately captivated by his love for books, his contagious laugh and his obsession with everything Scream. Today, John has made quite a name for himself in the world of book reviews – a name that no doubt will continue to grow in popularity as he moves into a proverbial new chapter. He’s here today to tell us all about that chapter.
Take it away, John!
On June 25th, my Hartford Books Examiner (HBE) Facebook page reached its 1,000th like.
On the 28th, I was at R.J. Julia—Connecticut’s illustrious indie bookstore—when a patron shared with me that her attendance at three recent events was a direct result of learning about them through my column (the ultimate validation for those of us who wonder if anybody’s actually reading our stuff).
Three days later, scrolling through Facebook, I learned that the forces behind Examiner.com had pulled the proverbial plug—and that my seven-and-a-half year reign as HBE had come to an unceremonious end. (How cliché that I’d learn of this through social media, right?)
A brief moment of panic.
Not because I’d have to find some new job to replace the $12 of income they paid me every month (that’s an approximation, and probably a generous one) but because I feared losing my place in the community that I so adore. So much of my identity had been wrapped up in a title. What would I do with that being taken away?
I had been granted intimate access to hundreds of authors, invited to moderate panels and one-on-one discussions at prestigious events, received complimentary books by the dozen, and found pull quotes of mine featured on, and in, books by the likes of James Patterson, Wally Lamb, Shania Twain, Mary Higgins Clark, and Debbie Macomber. Even Marcia Clark—yes, that Marcia Clark—who had been a hero of mine since the age of twelve.
It seemed I had a lot to lose.
But then? My paranoia was replaced by an overwhelming sense of … freedom.
While I am deeply appreciative of Examiner.com for providing me a forum, I had increasing frustrations about their poor compensation and maddeningly inconsistent editorial feedback. Still, I had hesitated to part ways because so many people knew me as an extension of that platform.
And then I realized something: Everything that HBE had become was my doing. I was the one who committed myself to writing multiple articles per week at the cost of sanity and sleep. I was the one who tirelessly recruited guest authors to appear virtually before they knew what Examiner.com was (but would later be so inundated with requests that I couldn’t keep up). I was the one who wrote the content that had been pulled for use in books and web sites and any number of other literary things.
Sadly, I also found that my voice, my very personality—which had been absolutely integral in branding HBE—was being silenced by nameless, faceless cyber superiors who thought they knew my readers better than I did. I firmly believe that professional and personable can coexist.
When I announced my liberation on Facebook, I was met with an overwhelming outpouring of support and encouragement from authors, bloggers, booksellers, readers, and other friends who I’d connected with since 2009. It soon became evident that my place among them was never in jeopardy. And if there was a common sentiment, it was this: Start your own site.
So I did.
Actually, my wife did. Chelsey—who is far better at all things requiring a modicum of tech savvy—immediately set about building my own personal web page. (She probably suspected that my initial elation at finding myself untethered would soon turn to abject terror.) On July 4th, I declared my creative independence with the unveiling of www.johnbvaleri.com, a virtual home where I can continue pushing my bookish agenda with reckless abandon.
While this new endeavor has only just begun, I’m excited knowing that the next chapter is mine alone to write.
John, so excited that you’ll be starting your own site. Best of luck to you – and we’re all here to support you! Readers, leave John a comment and wish him well!