Tag Archives: bitchy reviewer

nightmare-by TheDigitalArtist:7177 from pixaby

Don’t be this guy.

It doesn’t happen often—once or twice a year, maybe. But occasionally I encounter something in or around book blogging that I choose to journal about. Usually that’s in the form of venting…some might say bitching. Semantics. But here we are again. I have another one.

This might take a little explaining and what I’m mostly trying to get at is an impression. So, it’s not super cut and dry. But I want to share the interactions I’ve recently had with an author and see if anyone else gets the same ick vibes I do. Again, this person hasn’t done anything overtly wrong, but something in every interaction—brief as they’ve been—has just been a little off somehow.

I’m not going to say who it was, or use any back-links. Because calling them out directly isn’t my point. Honestly, I hope they never see this. I’ll explain why at the end. (Though the internet is the internet. So, I have no control over that.)

The whole thing started over on Sadie’s Spotlight, which is a sister site to this one. Over there I sadie's spotlightgenerally post books promotion (book blitzes, spotlights, cover reveals, author interviews, etc). I don’t offer reviews. I have this blog for that. It does still focus on the same genres as See Sadie Read though. If I’m gonna play with books, I want it to be books I’m interested in.

Most of the content comes from tour companies. Meaning authors hire the tour company to arrange a series of promotional blog posts. And I get offers to participate, choosing those that look interesting to me. I do have a submit page for authors making their own arrangements, but I don’t honestly get a lot of submissions. I work mostly with the tour companies.

One day, I got an email from a tour company I post for regularly, asking if I’d pick up a particular tour. They were short on hosts for it. It wasn’t directly within my preferred genre cluster, but I said I’d share it just to be helpful. [My husband would tell me that this was my mistake. No good deed goes unpunished, after all.] There were no problems from the tour company side.

My first inkling that something was a little awry came from the author’s answers to the attached interview. And again, I’m talking impressions here. But in the course of 12 questions, this author gave the impression of being smug and dismissive of the interview (and thus interviewer).

This came through in a number of ways. Several questions that could have been elaborated on were answered with a curt “no.” For example, “Do you write every day?” “No.‘ Or “Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?” “No.”yes, maybe, no

There’s nothing wrong with this, unless you consider what the point of a promotional blog tour and interview is. It’s to draw readers in, to gain interest. Such questions could have been cut or from the written interview, or better yet, redirected. “No, I don’t write everyday. I write in inspired, sporadic bursts of creativity that leave me wrung out, emotionally exhausted, and desperate for the next wave.” Or “No, I never get writers block, but sometimes this similar thing happens and I do this.” Instead, the reader feels slapped in the face, as if he’s sneered at them for asking about something so beneath him. Like, I wholly imagine that “no” accompanied by a derisive snort.

But then there was the last question, the absolute coup de grace, that looked like this (I cut the title to keep it vague):

What is the last great book you’ve read?

I don’t read anymore. I read most of the masters and learned from their insight. I had read so many books until I arrived at “————-.” I arrived at the end of the search and a different one began. There are many good writers today but I learned their insights long ago, and other than a change of costumes, they reach the same reality, maybe in a different language.

He doesn’t read anymore? He’s learned ALL the insights of the masters? Long ago, even? He knows the insights of ALL the good writers of today? From ALL over the world? I was so shocked (and appalled) by the arrogance and audacity of this answer that I made a whole Tiktok about it. (Which to, be fair, was super inappropriate of me, even if I didn’t name him.)

@seesadieread where do some people get the confidence to basically say ‘i know all I need to know and have no need to seek further knowledge?’ #authoriwontread #nothankyou #theaudacity #thearogance #arrogant #authortalk #authortok #bookblogger #seesadieread #yousaidthatoutloud #insidethought #ummm #icouldnever #booktok #booktalk #havealittlehumility ♬ original sound – SadieF

My husband heard me making it and asked, “MAGA?” (Meaning, of course, an older, wealthy-ish, straight, white, male, with a superiority complex.) I obviously couldn’t answer that. How would I know? But the…again, impression was such that I’d lean toward saying probably, yes.

But there’s more. The post over on Sadie’s Spotlight went off without a hitch. The author didn’t say thank you, which is fine. Not all authors do. But he did post a link on his Instagram saying, “amazing Q&A with —– on “——.“” (Again, I cut the identifying information.)

Given my above thoughts on the interview, I can’t agree that the interview itself was amazing. But I don’t think that matters. Because, given that background, I felt the amazing referred more to it being with him and about his book than about the interview questions, blog post or anything I (or the tour company that arranged it) did. Again with the self-importance. And, again, it’s just an impression.

Then came the email from him, through Sadie’s Spotlight’s submission page saying, “Hello Sadie! Here are my images for my book submission for review!” And let me pause here and reiterate that Sadie’s Spotlight does not offer reviews. The submission page does however say this:

I accept submissions for posts in the BROAD fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism, PNR, sci-fi/fantasy romance, LGBTQ+ genres. I do accept YA, but not children’s books in these genres. If you’re book isn’t in this genre family, sorry this isn’t the place for you.

and this:

To preempt the question, I do not post reviews on Sadie’s Spotlight. However, if I ever do read a book that’s also on the blog I will add a note on the Spotlight with a link to the review on See Sadie Read. You are welcome to include a copy of a book, but I’m not making any promises in that department.

The point of these bullets is that authors are welcome submit a fantasy book for a spotlight on the blog and, if they include an e-copy, I might read it and post a review over on See Sadie Read, back-linking the to two posts together. But the submission is very clearly for a spotlight of a fantasy book and nothing else. There is no promise of review, none at all.

I pulled these two quotes because—first—this author’s book is a self published, fictionalized memoir, not fantasy. I even tried to verify it’s genre by checking Amazon and Goodreads. But the blurb section is 100% praise and not one word blurb or synopsis. [This is where my husband’s comment that I shouldn’t be nice comes in. I relaxed my genre limitation to accept a non-fantasy book in the first place and now all this.]

please-just-stop--1Second, since he was working with a tour organizer and had been on the blog three days earlier, there was no reason to self-submit a request for a spotlight. Which is beside the point, because—third— “Here are my images for my book submission for review!” isn’t actually requesting a spotlight (the only thing on offer). It isn’t, in fact, requesting anything at all. It is presuming I will review his book and benevolently providing me the images to use when I do.

A book I have not been asked or agreed to review—I have, instead been clear that I make no such promises—submitted via a form not intended for reviews at all, in a genre clearly not included in the accepted genre range, to be posted on a blog that doesn’t ever post reviews, and with no evidence that he’d ever even visited the blog I do post reviews on. (Otherwise, one would presume he’d have sent his email there.) And given all the other minor irritants, I can only read the tone as arrogant and assumptive. But again, it’s just an impression…another impression.

But wait, there’s more. Though only a little. I, of course, wrote him back and declined to review his book.

Thank you for contacting me about —–. However, Sadie’s Spotlight does not offer reviews and the book has already (and recently) been on the blog for a spotlight & interview. 
I wish you the best in future promotions. 
To which he responded:
It appeared u also would review so how was I going to sell myself if I told u look at the post u put up it might have been rude. Thanks

What’s wrong with that, you might ask. Well, other than obviously being dashed off and not reread (not worth the effort to proofread), it subtly blames me for his mistake. My submission guidelines obviously led him to believe Sadie’s Spotlight might also review books. The guidelines that say, “I do not post reviews on Sadie’s Spotlight.” The submission page on which question one is, sadie's spotlight question one and if you mark no diverts you to a screen that says,

sadie's spotlight declination screen

But my guidelines led him to believe I might be interested in reading and reviewing his fictionalized memoir. So, he’s not at fault. (There is an LGBTQ tag, so maybe he rationalized slipping it in on that technicality. Though I generally mean fantasy with LGBTQ+ themes.)

Plus, it addresses why he sent me his images (because it would be rude to just tell me to get them off the blog post), but not that he’s—surely knowingly—submitting his book (not just images, but his book too) for a review on a blog that doesn’t post book reviews—even if he’d actually asked me to.

So, again, we’re left with the arrogance to respond to my declination with blame and an excuse. As opposed to simple acceptance and/or maybe an apology for the mistake.

No one of the above flags is really an issue on its own. But all together leaves a very poor impression. Such that I truly wish I’d not agreed to post that first spotlight. He strikes me as the sort of man who will take everything personally (this post especially, should he find it). Thus my assertion that I hope he doesn’t stumble across it.

I can imagine him coming for me hard. Not in the real world, obviously, but online. (The author who once dealt with his anger over a poor review by writing and presenting to his critique group, a rape scene about me so vile that one of his critique partners felt compelled to look me up and warn me about it, comes to mind.) Or he might even go back to the original tour company and make their life difficult, because a random blogger they partner with said online that she thought he came across as an arrogant ass.

And I do recognize that I’m walking a precarious line here. I try very hard to be agnostic about the books I post on Sadie’s Spotlight. Not everything, even in the fantasy genres is going to be my cup of tea and the point is to hype books and authors up, not tear them down. So, this particular post is contrary to all my efforts over there. (And is part of why I’m not naming the author.) But sometimes a thing just has to be said, even if only in a blog post 6 whole people might see.

Besides a chance to simply vent, I do want to use this example as a chance to say to all authors—especially male authors (who I’ve anecdotally found to be far more guilty of this sort of thing)—to not be this guy. And if you are this guy, maybe think about not being quite so self-aggrandizing. It’s not a great look…certainly isn’t doing your book any favors. If I were to read it at this point, it would be 100% to see if the fictionalized memoir is as much author wish-fulfillment and chest thumping as it feels like it must be at this point.


Sorry, not sorry.


please keep digital box set covers this

Please put flat covers on digital box sets, a reader’s request.

Yesterday, I fell and twisted my ankle…or twisted my ankle and fell. So, I spent most of the day laid up on the couch with an ice pack, listening to an audio book (Aurora’s End) and tending my Calibre library, which is where I keep track of my non-Kindle books. (I really wish Amazon hadn’t changed file formats to prohibit being uploaded to Calbre. That way I could have them all in one place. But that’s beside the point.) Yesterday, I made sure every book had a listed page length and, if it was part of a series, that series was listed, along with the books place in the series.

look complete we are

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but didn’t want to dedicate several tedious hours to. In this case, I was stuck on the couch anyhow. So, I was glad for a task that was mindless enough to do while following an audio book. And I feel super accomplished!

I’m likely to spend much of today similarly immobile. This morning I’m looking at covers. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I have definite opinions about such things. I realize, of course, that my opinion is just that. I don’t expect to suddenly get my own way in all things, even this small thing. But, as I have little else to do at the moment (and in case it make any difference to hear a reader’s opinion), I’m going to tell you about it.

I want to talk about the covers of box sets/anthologies/omnibuses/etc. (I’m going to use the term box set to include all of these.) Well, as an aside I also want to take a moment to yell at the top of my lungs ALWAYS PUBLISH A BOOK’S PAGE LENGTH! I don’t care if it’s a digital book. It annoys the ever living FUCK out of me to try and discover if I’m picking up a short story or an epic and only find “File size: 3031 KB.” But that isn’t what today’s post is about. Today is about book cover conventions for box sets.

I find that a lot of authors use 3D rendering of the books in the set instead of a flat cover. I 100% hate this. I don’t actually hate the renderings. I think they’re pretty and make great promo tools. But they are pictures of a box set, not a cover of a box set. (See the difference?) Let me show you why I feel the way I feel. Here’s an image from my Calibre library (ordered by length). I could have done the same in Goodreads, but, as I said, I’m working in Calibre.

3d renderings of box sets don't fit in

You see, everything matches in size and shape. There’s a flow and then, BAM you hit those box sets. They’re the wrong shape, all that white space stands out, and they break up the symmetry. They basically stand out for all the wrong reasons. This annoys me more than is probably reasonable, but enough that I’m taking the time to write a whole post about it.

I actually feel the same way about authors who don’t stick to the size and shape conventions for book covers in general too.

make your cover match industry standard
That book in the middle isn’t an audio book. It’s just a book with the wrong shaped cover and it stands out horrendously. To me, books that don’t conform to the industry convention for cover shape scream ‘poorly done self-publishing.’ I actually hate to say anyone has done something wrong, because part of the joys of self-publishing is the ability to do things differently if you choose. But, for me, allowing readers to maintain ascetic cohesion when they are looking at their digital shelves is important. Again, it’s just my opinion. But it’s one I feel strongly about.

Going back to box sets. I don’t actually care If the cover is one created for the set and just lists the series name (like cover one), has stylized rendering of the books (cover 2), just has all the covers of the books themselves (cover 3), or something else entirely.

examples of box sets
Just so long as the overall image is rectangular and flat, so that it matches other books on my shelves.

And in case you needed one more reason to stick to flat covers, let me mention #Bookstagram. I love Instagram. I post a ton of book pictures. So many, in fact, that between See Sadie Read and Sadie’s Spotlight, I have two accounts full of almost nothing but books. (The latter entirely ebooks.) I recently posted this one.

Nowhere, absolutely nowhere (not on Amazon, the author’s page, or Goodreads) can I find a flat image of this book cover. And while this was an ARC, the book has been published with this as it’s cover. Tell me how much nicer that picture would have looked with a flat image of the cover! It’s got a super pretty cover. I’d have much preferred a real image of it.

So, there you have it folks, my unequivocal opinion on the size and shape of digital box sets. Am I alone in this? Anyone feel differently?

nightmare-by TheDigitalArtist:7177 from pixaby

Bitchy Reviewer Being Bitchy…Again

I’m going to have a little rant /slash/ in-the-reviewer’s-head session here. Earlier today I received a book review request (I’m using the term request loosely, there is no actual request anywhere in the email) which I found presumptuous and arrogant. And since I’ve received some variation of this sort of request several times before, I was “all aflutter with not-again-annoyance” (to quote myself).

The first thing I did after receiving the email request was roll my eyes, but the next was to send this tweet out.

Soon after I sent out the tweet, I had poster’s remorse. I figured it wouldn’t actually irritate someone who hadn’t received so many arrogant requests before and, therefore, wasn’t quite so primed to find red flags in it. Thus this post. I’m going to break down why this particular post raised my eyebrow.

Just in case the image above doesn’t generate, I’ll quote the email I received below, though I’m redacting the author’s name and the title of the book. My point isn’t to shame them personally, but to show why (from my perspective) this request will never entice me to read their book. And hopefully prevent others making the same mistake.

Dear Sadie,

I have chosen to send you the first chapters of my book called XXX after reading on Amazon your review of  The Alchemist.

XXX is not just a spiritual or fictional book; it is much more than that. It is one of the most concise and informative books you have ever read. In the glossary, there is a wide range of information and website links for your spiritual awakening. This book will definitely change the way you see the world and yourself, and it can save your life and the people you love.

This is NOT a new marketing strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic is speeding things up, so I’m willing to send you the book for free if I have to.

I recommend that you read the first chapters as soon as possible. You will find a PDF file attached to this email.


I’m just going to start at the top and move line-by-line from there.

I have no issue with the greeting. In fact, they personalized it. No, Dear Reviewer here. So, good start.

My problem starts with “I have chosen to…” This attempts to set the tone of the exchange. They chose me. I should be grateful. This first sentence attempts to place me in a subordinate position. Because when one is grateful they go out of their way to be as helpful as possible in return.

My next issue is with “after reading on Amazon your review of  The Alchemist.” Here’s what I said about The Alchemist.

the alchemist review

It’s hardly a raving review that would suggest I’m looking for similar reads. Perhaps the author of the review request meant, ‘since you didn’t particularly care for The Alchemist you’ll like my book that is different because…’ But as they didn’t say that, I can only go with the guess that they hit up all the reviewers of The Alchemist that had open email addresses. Yes, I feel chosen and important. 🙄

Moving on to “XXX is not just a spiritual or fictional book.” I know some people may not see spiritual and religious as the same. But I think it’s fair, when speaking of book genres, that they fall in the same broad category and my policies state I “would prefer no YA or religious books, please.” It’s even in red….purple….pink…ish so it stands out.

policies screenshot

But even if you read that sentence and didn’t think it included spiritual books, the book pointedly isn’t Science Fiction, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance or an LGBTQ+ title. Thus, my policies already tell this author I don’t really want to read their book. I rather suspect this author didn’t bother reading the policies though.

We’ll just touch briefly on the assumptions about my education involved in the statement “It is one of the most concise and informative books you have ever read.” How do they presume to know what I may or may not have read? I’m a woman with two Masters degrees (and as an aside, a BSc that includes a minor in religious studies) and runs a book review blog. I’ve read quite a lot.

Next, “This book will definitely change the way you see the world and yourself,” This is either pointless hyperbole or a truly bold statement that again presumes to know an awful lot about me personally. And I simply don’t even know what to make of the claim “and it can save your life and the people you love.

This is NOT a new marketing strategy.” Then what is it? It’s certainly a marketing strategy. Is it an old marketing strategy dressed up as something different?

The COVID-19 pandemic is speeding things up...” What things, and how is Covid-19 speeding them up in any way that relates to me as a reviewer or the author’s decision to email me, pertinent?

… so I’m willing to send you the book for free if I have to.” Did you expect not to? Did you expect to request (demand) not only a review, but a purchase as well? Sending a copy of the book is a normal and expected part of the review request process. But I feel like the author included this line to emphasize how dire this mysterious situation is. Again, trying to control and manipulate the exchange, or at least my reaction to it.

I recommend that you read the first chapters as soon as possible.” This is where I really bristled. I did not ask for this author’s recommendation. In fact, I consider this a direct order from a person who should instead be humbly requesting I read the first chapter of their book at my convenience. And that’s assuming they aren’t asking if I’d be willing to read the first chapter of their book. That is a markedly different tone to what is presented. It presumes to have the authority to instruct me and the right to make demands of my time. It’s so certain of itself it has even included the chapter in question.

Then, after speaking to me as a questionably educated subordinate it signs off with Namaste, a sign of respect. Talk about a hollow misappropriation of the term!

Here’s the thing though. I can pick this email apart line-by-line, but it’s not the line-by-line sentences that are the problem. It’s the overall tone and what it tells me as a reader and reviewer. I’ve been doing this for seven years, I’ve learned a few things. Here’s what I can guess about this author already. And I’m pretty confident about it too.

I would normally say they’re almost certainly male (which leads me to wonder if they’d have employed the same domineering tone if they’d been writing to a male reviewer). But Google tells me the author’s name is generally female (and if it’s a man writing under a woman’s pen name I’d never know). Regardless, they are used to a certain amount of entitled pandering.  The book is almost certainly self-published and has probably never been seen by a professional editor. And here’s the real kicker. The author will almost certainly not deal well with criticism. If I give this book anything less than a 4-star rating I will probably deal with grief over it.

I’ll give as an example here the time I gave a someone’s book a 2.5 star rating and equivalent review. Then, TWO YEARS later was informed by a concerned by-stander that the author was having an explicit rape scene critiqued in a writers group and bragging about how he’d written it to avenge the reviewer who panned his book. This is the sort of vibe I get from this review requesta person who won’t take rejection well and then won’t want to let it go.

But Sadie, how could you possibly know that, you might ask. Well, I don’t know. But that is the impression the ‘request’ gives me and it’s backed by a fair amount of anecdotal evidence. Anyone who sends me a request that over-blown and pompous is obviously used to getting their own way, not being contradicted, and will assume they don’t need the help normal people do. After all, they don’t have to follow the social niceties. Not even when requesting a review of a book about spiritual awakenings.

At least that’s what I think the book is about. The email doesn’t actually give me any real concrete information about the subject of the book. After all, I’m not supposed to be deciding to read it because of any interest in the subject, but instead because the author is so impassioned, impressive, and told me to. In that regard, I’m not even supposed to be deciding to read it. I’m just supposed to do it. You’d think someone writing about some variant of spirituality would be a little more socially aware. But, oh well.

All in all, no, I won’t be reading this book. I wouldn’t be regardless of how the request was worded. It’s not within the stated genres I read and, since I can’t find a whiff of it online (Amazon, Goodreads, etc), probably not available in physical form, the only format I’m currently open to, per my policies.

So, while I admit I’ve written this in part simply for my own amusement, I think it’s also a point authors and publishers (or whomever is making a book review request) might take on board. Tone matters, manners matter. Words are not just words, they tell stories and give impressions. And that is as true outside the confines of your book cover as inside. This author burned a bridge pretty badly here. How many times have you (or I) inadvertently done the same?