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. It really 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.