Category Archives: personal

B*tchy Blogger being B*tchy

I seem to do this about once a year, have an encounter that just rubs me the wrong way. I’m never entirely sure I wouldn’t let the same thing slide at any other moment than the one it happens in, but at the time it usually leaves me thinking, “How do people feel so entitled to my time or that they’re in any position to tell me how I should do things in my own reviews?”

I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve gotten on reviews subtly telling me that my opinion is wrong and I should be saying something else or saying something differently or in a different tone, etc. Sometimes I just roll my eyes at them, sometimes I thank them for mansplaining my opinion to me, which never goes over well, just so you know. People then seem to want to police how I communicate with said commenters. It’s a truly odd scenario that I’ve seen a couple times now.

And I’ll be honest, this post is mostly just me venting. But maybe it can be used as a cautionary tale about how you (authors requesting reviews) come across to bloggers (or this blogger, as I’ve just basically been told I don’t do it right, since I don’t do it like everyone else). Because often something that seems benign is actually annoying to a blogger (me), be it because they’ve seen it a hundred times or it reads differently on the receiving end than the requesting end.

This will take a little set up, going back almost 2 years. But first let me remind you of a couple passage in my policies and procedures. They say, “Sending me a book does not guarantee that I will read or review it,” and “just to reiterate this, I may never read YOUR book,” and most importantly for the point I wish to make today, “I love, love, LOVE getting to know other authors…However, I aim for a truly objective review and I find that too much conversation upfront impedes my ability to be impartial. So, please don’t take offense if you hear little from me prior to reading your book.”

What this comes down to is that, with few exceptions, I don’t respond to review requests. The whole system is set up for books to flow toward me and reviews to roll away from me, with no stutter in the steps, no need for any back and forwards between us.

I set it up this way because in the beginning of this blog’s existence, I listed very clear preferences about what I was open to accepting and what I wasn’t, along with the directions on how to submit requests that I would agree to or not. At that point in time I responded to each request. The idea was that only so many authors would be sending them, as only so many would match my stated preferences. I found that the vast majority of authors making requests to me ignored my preferences completely, most obviously hadn’t even read them. I got so tired of it I set up a trick email so I knew who had or hadn’t read the policies.

It’s not a secret, I’ve mentioned it several times. I simply put this paragraph at the top of my P&P page.

If you would like a book reviewed please email a MOBI file to 2lazy2readP&P@sadieforsythe.com. My policies follow. Please read them. Ireally is in your own best interest. I will ignore emails that patently haven’t followed even the most basic directions. Additionally, here are some generalisable tips.

I get so many emails to this address, you guys! I even got a tweet once asking if it was still my email, since he hadn’t gotten a response. And I just looked at it and thought, “You had to cut and paste that and you still didn’t actually read it, let alone the policies that would tell you not to expect a response.”

If you take nothing else way from this post, please hear me when I say it’s exceedingly annoying and borderline insulting to ask someone to read your 300 page book and write a several hundred word review, if you won’t even read a single page of policies in return. The arrogance in that astounds me. I promise you, from a bloggers perspective there is no monetary reward for doing this, not even the copy of your book counts. I work in ebooks, it costs nothing to send them and once read they just sit on my computer taking up space. They do not count as payment for my time or effort. So, you should expect to show a little respect when requesting it.

It got so bad that I just gave up on listing preferences at all and said, in a somewhat desultory way, fine, just send whatever and I’ll just choose among them. This is when I went to ebooks only, so it wouldn’t cost anyone to send a book I might never read. But I digress. I never miss an opportunity to say it though, because apparently people need the repeated reminder.

Back to today. I don’t respond to review requests. That’s my practice. In July of 2015 I got a request to read a particular book. I went through my normal process when I get a request. I uploaded the file to Caliber and marked it on Goodreads as a request. (That’s how I keep track of what has been sent to me.) Then in November, I got another request. I went to upload it to Caliber and realized there was no file attached. But I recognized it was a repeat, so I already had it anyhow. This was a stutter in my process, but mistakes happen. I got on with logging other books.

Then three months later I got a third email. Stating that the sender had made a request and not added the file. Since I was still open to reviews, they’d add it here. It was followed by all the same information from the first two emails.  A little over six months later, I got a fourth one. I recognized it this time. A fourth almost identical email, tends to stick in mind, even over a years time.

You’ve probably realized by now that if I haven’t read it in a year, I’m probably not going to. It isn’t a book that appeals to me. This didn’t appear to occur to the author, as I had this twitter exchange with them today.

[As an aside, I wonder how many more emails I would have gotten if my spam filter hadn’t identified the email address as a repeat and bounced it.]

This final exchange is what I want to talk about. Yes, I was curt with this author (and to their credit, they did not respond in kind), certainly not as polite as I would normally be. But from my perspective, here’s why: As this author (whose identity I have obviously obfuscated because this whole thing is close enough to a subtweet without me calling them or their book out by name/title) points out, a simple response would have let them know I got their book. But, as I said, it’s not my practice and it takes a little while to push someone out of their normal routine.

More than that, the emails were obviously a cut and paste deal—quite long, with an intro, blurb, sample passage, discussion of what the work utilizes, a bio, discussion on target audience and the amount of gore/violence, purchase links, and previous review quotes. So, not something they wrote just for me. In fact, one of the emails still had the email interaction between the author and another reviewer they requested from, with all the same information attached (obviously from having been cut and pasted). So, if the format wasn’t enough to prove it was a cut and paste deal the author’s mistake would, which is fine. I don’t mind a form email, but it doesn’t grab my attention. More to the point, it makes it a lot easier to think, when you receive a second one, that the author just doesn’t realize they’re hitting the same reviewer up a second time. Which is exactly what I thought.

By the time I got the third email, I realized this was an author who intended to be persistent. And this is important, it’s where impressions come into play, because if I’ve come to the attention of someone who is willing to hound people until they get what they want (and I’m not saying this person is like that, just that from the email chain it was looking like they might be) the last thing I want to do is encourage it by engaging them, which discourages me from contacting them.  Further, right there any chance I might read their book is drastically reduced, because, in my experience, those are the same authors who go nuts if they get a bad review and I avoid those authors like they have the plague.

By the time I got the fourth email, a year after the first, I was feeling hunted. I recognized the book on sight and was irritated to see it in my email again. Do you want to be the author reviewers avoid? Probably not. Is it logical to feel hunted from four emails, also probably not. But the darned thing just kept popping back up with the same cut and paste information, nothing new. Just another identical request, liked a kid that keeps asking for candy after they’ve been told ‘not until after dinner’ four times. It’s exactly as effective as my six-year-old’s begging and exactly as annoying.

So, by the time I got the Twitter DMs asking me how to better contact me to request a fifth review from me, I’d had enough. Authors, if you’ve emailed someone four times, you are no longer sending a friendly, helpful reminder email. You just aren’t. It’s time to move on.

I wholly acknowledge that this author did not set out to become a canker sore in my contact box. From where they sat they had five attempts at communication over a year and a half. That doesn’t sound too bad. And honestly, they’re not the only one I’ve gotten multiple emails from. In terms of frequency, they’re not even the worst. One particular duo sent me 18 emails about reviewing their books, none of which followed the directions and included the file to actually review. But on the receiving end it feels like Bible thumpers you just can’t get to stop knocking on your door. You don’t want to answer to tell them to go away, because then you have to talk to them. But if you don’t talk to them, they’ll come back. It’s not a good position to put anyone in.

There are other, smaller things effecting me in this case too. Things that are really just personal quibbles. I, for example, think a book gets six months as a new release to be eligible for sending out for review requests. After that it needs to be set aside to garner attention on its own. There are more authors seeking reviews than there are bloggers to review them and if older books never step out of the request/review line, no new books can find their way into it. I think it’s selfish to still be petitioning reviewers so long after a release, unless there’s a reason for it (new edition, as a promotion prior to a sequel’s release, etc). Not everyone agrees with this, obviously. But it comes into play here as, “Why is this author still emailing me about this book at all? It’s no longer a new release.” Which just compounded my annoyance at getting several requests for it.

Like I said above, I’m venting here. I’m being b*tchy. But I think it can also benefit authors to be reminded that bloggers get inundated with review requests. I have a paragraph at the beginning of mine saying that I’m currently only reading one requested review book a month, and I still get several requests. Admittedly, the number has fallen off as authors are discouraged by my rather terse statement, but they haven’t stopped. And when I had no such note, I was receiving hundreds of requests, literally. I read a lot, but that’s far, far more than I could handle. This is why reading policies is so important. Imagine trying to keep track of all that. Anything that tangles up the system is problematic.

But it also means that in these circumstances, your one little email—be it a first, a reminder or a fourth—is never just one little email to the person who is getting it. It’s one drop in a flood. Some things so easily compound into big things when you’re talking about that sort of volume. Be respectful, be patient, be diligent and be willing to take no for an answer (even an unspoken one) and walk away. And for goodness sake, don’t think your unsolicited advice on how things should be done, no matter how subtle, is welcome or appreciated! I promise you, it’s not.

OK, I feel better. Sometimes a venting session is necessary. If I’m lucky maybe it’ll be helpful to someone and not exist as little more than a vent. But it is what it is.

 

Review of January’s Bookish Box

Several months ago I signed up for the  Bookish Box. It’s a subscription box from Appraising Pages in which every month they mail a box with a literary T-shirt and 3-5 bookish items, like bookmarks, candles, or jewelry. I’ve been pretty happy with it so far, but I’ve been inconsistent about reviewing them. (Rather, I’ve been bad about remembering, in my excitement, to take pictures as I open it.) I remembered this time though.

This month’s theme was musicals and we had representations form Hamilton, Les Miserables and Wicked.

I’ll start with the T-shirt, since that’s generally the big ticket item. This month it has a quote from Hamilton on it: “The plan is to fan this spark into a flame.” I’ve yet to see the play, but I like the quote quite a lot and the fact that the print is simple, so the shirt’s not too flashy. But I also just think it’s really timely, with the events of the world recently.

Also from representing Hamilton is a pair of clay earrings, by Tanglewood Lane. Cute and so very wearable.

I know I’m old school, but Les Miserables is still one of my favorite musicals of all time. I think it alone got me through high school. So, a Les Mis bookmark? Oh, yes please.

Representing Wicked is a “Wicked Diva” bath bomb, by Michael Kelly. And yeah, there’s totally a naked person in that second picture, but I cropped it so you only get to see the effect of the bomb on the water. It smelled lovely, if you’re into that sort of thing. I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of strong smelling…well, anything really. But really the dramatic effect was a lot of fun.

Lastly, there was a lovely “Bookish Notes” book to keep 2017’s favorite book quotes in and a set of planner stickers. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a bullet journal and these would be perfect for that.

Yet again I have to say I’m all around pleased with my box. I went ahead and renewed my subscription, in fact, which really should tell you everything there is to know about my opinion on the matter.

Here’s what 2017 looks like for me.

Oh hey, it’s 2017. Today we woke up not only to a new day, but a new year. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one happy to be done with 2016. Please, please, please, Fate, let 2017 be less traumatizing as 2016! There are so very many things I want to be different this year, but this is merely a personal book blog, so I’m going to concentrate on that. **No, no, politics, you cannot creep into this post. Down boy, down!**

On a personal, non-literary front (and I say this here in order to hold myself accountable) I intend to do a lot more yoga. Up until last year I was a five times a week girl and I loved it. I was feeling strong and svelte and accomplished. Then I broke my wrist (something I feel like I’ve mentioned a million times) and couldn’t practice. That shattered the habit and even once it had healed, I never managed to re-establish it. Unfortunately, as of this moment, I have to admit I haven’t been in months. (I’m still paying my membership dues though, much to my husbands irritation.) So, goal number one is more yoga and once I’m feeling confident in that, I need (not want) to add come cardio in too. I’m almost 40, my body needs that.

Goal number two is a repeat, I say this every year and mean it, but I’m going to do more writing this year. More importantly, I’m going to finish projects. I have at least three ‘books’ mostly written but abandoned because I don’t know where to go with them.

Look, I even have a snazzy new office space to write in. Up until just last week, all I had for a desk was a fold up picnic table. It worked, but wasn’t anything to be proud of. Look at me now! OK, look at us now, because that’s obviously a workspace for two. Mine is the side awash in blinding morning sunlight, by the way. I might have to wear sunglasses if I want to write before 10am.

Having a great space, and I consider that a GREAT space—my overflowing bookshelves are just out of frame to the right and my inspiration board across from the slatted chair—is an improvement. It’s not enough to hold me to task though. I intend to be viscous with my time this year. I’m starting the year with a regimented daily schedule. I mean, I’m scheduling tea breaks, writing time, research time, plotting time, etc. No hour will be unaccounted for. It’s not sustainable longterm, of course it isn’t. I anticipate it being miserable. But I’m hoping if I start this way I can force myself into more effective, habitual use of my time and be more productive.

If anyone has any advice  for me, I am more than open to hearing it. I’m looking at bullet journals, anti-distraction writing devices, word count apps. Heck, my husband even suggested finding a group to join for the sole purpose of having someone to shame me when I fall down on my self-set goals. Because not being accountable to anyone is a weakness for me. So, what works for you? Tell me, please.

One of the biggest things I’m attempting to do with this plan is cut down on my reading time. I know, that sounds so wrong to me too. But I can’t write if my nose is stuck in someone else’s book, which it usually is. I think of reading in terms of books, not chapters or hours. I have almost no ability to set a book aside once I’ve started it, regardless of its length (or quality if I’m committed to not DNFing it). It’s a little obsessive. “I’ll do X when I finish this book,” means it’s really easy for me to dedicate all my time to reading and get nothing else done. This is a habit I HAVE to break. I just do.

Now, let’s not be hasty. This doesn’t mean I won’t be reading. I’ll be reading, let me assure you. I set a goal of 250 books on Goodreads, which is substantial, but still 100 fewer books than 2016. And I’ll be starting the year off with Blood Stained Tea , by Amy Tasukada. In fact, I plan to crack it open this afternoon. Reading is still on the docket. Just, you know, hopefully not to the exclusion of everything else.

I have other reading goals this year too. I’ve joined a couple challenges already and, being as it’s only January 1, there’s a good chance I’ll find more. But so far I’ve committed to my normal Alphabet challenge, where I read a book by an author of each letter of the alphabet. This really is just me being compulsive. It annoys me to see empty space under the letters on my reviews page. Hey, at least I’m aware of my tendencies.

I plan to do the #ReadDiverse2017 challenge, organized by Read Diverse Books, as well as the #DiverseReads2017 from Chasing Fairytales. They are much the same and obviously the idea is increase the diversity in the book I read.

To do this, I’m going to use the #DiversityBingo2017 card as a guide. Experience has taught me that despite my best intentions, unless I am conscious of the demographic of the characters I’m reading, they lack diversity. So, I like having something to prompt me to expand past white boys kissing and able-bodied, cisgendered, white girls running around fantasy worlds.

Since I’m starting at the beginning of the year, unlike last year, when I started #DiversityRomanceBingo in September, I plan to read a book for each square on the board. (Also like last year, I’ll remind myself of my own cautions: This is something that has to be approached respectfully. If it is reduced to just a game or something done for the social justice cookie, it risks tokenizing, objectifying and even commodifying the individuals represented.)

Speaking of girls running around fantasy worlds (my favorite), the Action Heroine Fan group runs a challenge to read female led action books, I’ll be doing it again this year. I set a goal of 35 such books.

And, lastly, I stumbled across the following excellent looking challenge by Belinda Missen. I particularly like that it includes old classics, new classics, diverse authors, fiction and non-fiction. It’s a good mix. 

So, you see, I still have reading aspirations. Fear not. Plus, I am keeping myself open to review requests. Though, if I’m honest, those have tapered off. I make it pretty clear in my policies that I won’t be reading a lot of requests (I attempted 29 last year, though I didn’t finish all of them) and I think that puts authors off, as it should. I’m committing to one a month. If I receive books that interest me, I’m open to more, but I’ll read at least that many.

So, that’s my New Year’s resolution post for you. What do yours look like?