Tag Archives: review requests

How to piss off a book blogger, part III

Pissed Off

OK, I’m not really pissed off. That would be giving random people on the internet too much control over me and my emotional wellbeing. But seriously people, this is just RUDE and why exactly would I want to go out of my way to do a favor for a person who’s sole interaction with me and my blog is rude and dismissive? Can we say shooting yourself in the foot?

I’m talking, of course, about people who, not only can’t be bothered to read a blog’s policies before requesting a review, but don’t even bother to look; who don’t even bother with e-mail but jut pop a spammy comment in the comment section of another book’s review.

Here is an example. It was pulled from here.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 1.26.09 PMThat is just so darned rude! But even Moon, above, did better than the one I received today.  He at least kept it brief and stuck to a review post, as opposed to a permanent page, like Mr. McMillian.

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He posted this as a comment on my permanent review page. As if I want this to be an everlasting fixture of the blog. At least Moon’s will get buried with each new post I write.

Yes, I could delete them, (In fact, see that red spam button in the image above? Yeah, that’s what I pressed for McMillian’s book.) but honestly I think they deserved to be shamed a little. No doubt these authors are as desperate for reviews as everyone else, but unless instructed to by the blogger, this is the 100% wrong way to request one. I don’t know a single blogger who would be happy with this. Plus, am I supposed to buy the book you’re spamming me to review? Because you can’t attach a file to a comment, so how is that supposed to even work?

It may not be a pubic service I’m providing by calling these guys (and others like them) out, but hopefully it will remind them to do better by the people they are soliciting for reviews. No one likes to waste time and believe me, this is a waste of time—mine and the author’s—because if the request is almost guaranteed not to result in a review, writing it is a waste of everyone’s time.

And it’s not just here that I find this sort of thing, though it’s my primary emphasis today. How about this one I received in a Goodreads friend request?

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 1.47.21 PM

I’ll let you guess if I accepted or not…no, of course I didn’t. I answered thus:

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I can at least give the man credit for being polite in his response, but get the real sense he still didn’t (maybe doesn’t) see the problem. The fact that it’s for charity in no way negates the fact that his solicitation was spam. (Nor does it excuse it.)

Sadie,
I appreciate your honesty and understand that my approach may irritate some.
But I’m trying hard, in my own little way, to help this island (Islay) that is losing population. Half of the book proceeds will support students of its high school on their mission trip to a third world country.
I don’t need the income from the book. It’s a giving-back sort of thing for me.
Hope you understand. Sorry to offend you.
Bob

I get it, you send out dozens of review requests and probably have a pretty poor response rate (everyone does) and it can be awful easy to forget that this is in fact a form of professional communication, even with hobby bloggers like myself. It can be easy to fall into an abbreviated, ‘I’ll just throw this one our just in case’ mentality. But let me assure you that, on the receiving end, we feel it and it does not reflect well on you or your book.

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I don’t need more than a sentence or two and a linked file in a request email. I don’t need flattery or press releases or extended synopses. It’s all nice, but I don’t think poorly of someone who doesn’t include it, so long as I have the basics. But I do need you to follow the direction, so that your book can travel the appropriate path to my reading list.

In my case, I track the emails. It’s how I list the books that have been sent to me for review requests. That means a blog comment doesn’t even make it onto the list. It simply doesn’t exist in the format I file requests in. So it is 100% ineffective and I would bet I’m not the only blogger with systems like this.

To bring this all around to the beginning though, I’m not even overly concerned at this point with effectiveness (because frankly, if you put so little effort into a request, I don’t care if it works or not) but with the flat out rudeness of it. This is rude and you just plain shouldn’t be rude to me if you want me to read your book.

Related posts:

How to piss off a book blogger, part I

How to piss off a book blogger, part II

Tips for submitting Ebooks to bloggers for review

ID-100207548This is an on-going list of things that help make submitting an ebook for review flow smoothly. I’ll be adding points as they occur to me. It’s written to be specific to me and my blog, but in all likelihood would work for any number of bloggers. I’m trying to focus on specific tasks—the mechanics, so to speak—not the request itself. So I’m going to skip over the obvious be polite/professional, don’t SPAM or harass the reviewer, and other such basic etiquette. The Bookish Brunette and Lindsay Buroker do a good job of breaking that down, if that’s what you’re looking for. This is about the nuts and bolts of getting a book into my hand and a subsequent review on the net.

To start with,

READ THE POLICY!!
I know this sounds too simple for words and every blogger to ever write a tips and hints page starts with it, but people really don’t do it. In my case, I don’t just assume they don’t, I know they don’t. I set up two email addresses, one labelled 2lazy2readP&P@sadieforsythe.com and the other, further down the page, labelled ereview@sadieforsythe.com. A full 1/3 of the requests I get come to that first email address. Of those that manage to read far enough to spot the trap, many still don’t follow the directions (point #2), so I’m forced to wonder how well they read them. But it’s a start.

FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!!
I know, I sound like a first grade teacher. But my case makes an excellent example of why this is important. I strive to write an objective review. And, as much as I love meeting authors (and I really, really do), I find that too much conversation upfront impedes my ability to be impartial. This means I’ve set the whole system up so that I don’t actually ‘meet’ authors prior to reading their work. After—great, but not before.

lady-face-angry-mdSo, if you send me a ‘request’ that says ‘write me back if you would like a copy’ (which is me requesting your book, BTW, not you requesting a review) you’ve A) not followed direction and probably annoying me upfront, but more to the point, B) just collapsed my system. Don’t expect a response (not that you’d know that, since you probably didn’t read the policies or you would know better). And…

DO YOUR BASIC RESEARCH
Under no circumstances write me this email and expect me to comply.

Good afternoon,

I saw your contact on book tweeting service, can you send me more informations about book reviews? Where will you post your review? your blog, amazon, goodreads, Facebook?

this is my new book…

Thank you very much

Looking forward to hear from you

Best Regards

Not only because all of that information has already been provided in the Do it Yourselfpolicies he/she obviously didn’t bother to read (yes, it came to the 2lazy2readP&P address), not to mention it’s listed on Book Tweeting, but also because I get several requests a day, have more books available to me than I can read, and therefore don’t need to work for more. I don’t need to make my case to you, just the opposite in fact. You make my job easier if you wish me to do you a favour, not the other way around. I don’t work for you. In fact, this gets me so riled up I wrote a whole rant on it. I know this really falls under the etiquette umbrella, that I wasn’t going to address, but it’s just so basic it needs repeating. 

INCLUDE THE INFORMATION ASKED FOR
I know this really falls under follow directions, but it deserves it’s own point. I ask for a title, synopsis, page length and cover image. I love it when authors include genre classifications too, but I don’t specify it. I ask for this information for a reason. It helps me decide if I’m interested in your book or not, but it also helps me in another way. I use Goodreads to keep track of my TBR list. If you’re book is too new to be on Goodreads I often add it so that I can place it on the appropriate shelf. To do this I need some basic information. Yes, I can search Amazon for this information (this is now acceptable by GR policies) and I do. But having the basics to begin with helps me help you.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE FILE NAME
man and kindleThis is something I never would have thought of if I wasn’t running an ebook review blog. Think it through. You send me an e-file. I then log it on my TBR list and plonk it onto my Kindle, to be read at some future date. When that time comes, I search my kindle for one of two things, the title or the author’s name. If the file is called something else, god forbid Unkown (of which I have several), I’ll never find it and, therefore never read it. So take that extra second to ensure that the file you attach to your email will show up when searched for.

IF YOU’RE INCLUDING LINKS, INCLUDE THE RIGHT ONES
If you send a Smashword’s coupon include the Smashwords link, not the Amazon one. I see this all of the time. People send me a coupon for one site and then link me to another. It’s usually Amazon. I think authors want me to know it’s available there. I promise, I’ll always look. But the logistics of the problem is that I still end up having to search for the book before I can actually use that handy-dandy coupon you’ve provided me. And as anyone who searches Smashwords regularly knows, their search engine is a bit of a pain. So just providing the link upfront instead of the higher profile Amazon one makes me happy. Honestly, I would prefer no link to a useless link. I’m just saying.

KEEP A LIST
listI have on more than one occasion, received the same book from the same author 2 or 3 times. I’m assuming this isn’t harassment, so much as poor bookkeeping. This wastes everyone’s time. You waste time posting a duplicate email and I waste time trying to log it only to discover I already have it.

SERIES
If a book is 2nd, 3rd, etc in a series, I will need the previous books. This admittedly runs the risk of my reading/reviewing the first one and not continuing the series to the newest book. If that happens at least you got one review from me. But without the beginning of the series I’m almost guaranteed not to read the book you send me.

NUMBER OF REVIEWS
I know those first couple reviews are the hardest and most nerve wracking to find, but I’m unlikely to choose to read your book until you have them. The reason is that I’m going to be honest about my thoughts. That means if I disliked the book I’m going to say so. I’m not heartless though. I want to know going in that if I dislike the book and rate it poorly there are enough other reviews to balance everything out. There are a lot of dissenting views out there on the use of acquaintances for reviews. As long as they actually read the book before reviewing it I have no issue with it.

Like I said, this is an on-going list. Expect it to grow. But it’s a start. I’d be really interested in hearing from others. Have I forgotten something, missed something, mangled something? Let me know. 

How to Piss off a Book Blogger: Treat Them Like an Employee

Gift horse I blog about books. I do this for the sheer joy of it and part of that joy comes from doing other authors a good turn. Because make no mistake, if I review your book on request I am doing you a favour. I am passing up the opportunity to read any number other books. Books I’ve chosen because they appeal to me. Books I may, perhaps even will probably, like more than yours for just that reason. Books that sit unread because I am kind enough to take requests, your requests.

And, while I don’t expect to be cajoled or senselessly flattered, I do expect to be treated with the respect due someone doing something nice with very little expectation of return. I expect to be allowed the power in this particular relationship. I expect to be the boss. And I don’t think this is unreasonable of me.

That’s why I’m always surprised and a little appalled when I get emails from authors who forget (or maybe never knew) this. I’m going to illustrate this point with a series of brief emails I recently exchanged with an author who shall remain nameless. (Though, not doubt, they’ll recognise themselves.) The issue really comes in at the end, but it won’t make a lot of sense without the background of the proceeding exchanges. It started out with a pretty standard email request.

Hi there Sadie,

I read your policy on your blog and I have to say that I have no time frame for my novel to be reviewed. Whenever you can do it is fine (if you decide to that is). I understand how busy people can get. I can go months without reading and then read loads in a small block. Life is funny like that. Below is all the bits of info you need. I’ve also attached a mobi file of my novel.

listen-carefully-and-follow-directionsGood job so far. It’s personalised, even goes on to create a little rapport and ensures that I know they read the policies. (You’d be surprised how many obviously haven’t, as they don’t follow the directions. I ignore these BTW. If you can’t be bothered to read and follow the directions, I can’t be bothered to correct you so that I can read your book. That onus is on you.) Granted, there is no actual request in there, but that’s fine. It’s implicit. I get that. No problem. Why else would they be emailing me?

The email went on to include all of the requisite information–page length, genre, blurb, etc. I like having that. I appreciate it. Thank you. If this had been the only communication between the author and myself I wouldn’t have thought anything about it. But the whole thing fell down when they failed to attach the Mobi file. Now, this is a mistake. A mistake we’ve all made at least a million times in our lives. No big deal. And since I thought the book looked interesting I shot the author a quick email pointing this fact out to them. In fairness I’ll include my own communications.

Thank you for contacting me about a review of XXX. I’d be happy to add it to my list, however I don’t think the actual mobi file was attached, just a jpeg of the cover.

This is where things started to fall apart, just a little bit, and they didn’t have to.

That’s odd! It says it is there when I’ve opened it. Anyway here it is again. Let me know if it works. I may have to try something else if it doesn’t. Thank you so much for agreeing to read it. I hope you enjoy it.

There is a thank you in there, so I’m all good with the politeness. Again it’s always appreciated. The minor problem, which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t in conjunction with the next email, which I’ll get to in a minute, is that it suggests that I’m mistaken and the file is actually attached. Shifting blame is unnecessary. It could have been corrected without comment or conceded to. It’s all together possible that some technical mishap resulted in the file getting lost before arriving in my inbox. I don’t know what it could be, but it could happen. But obviously I wouldn’t send an email back unless I’ve checked and double checked that the file isn’t there.

My whole system is set up for a single communication between authors and myself. Anything more than that does two things I dislike. One, it takes a lot of my time. Two, it creates a familiarity that I find clouds my own willingness to be honest in my review. I don’t like disappointing my friends and the more I communicate with you the friendlier I feel about it and the guiltier I feel if I have to give you a poor review. Incidentally there is also an assumption that I’ve agreed to read the book, when I only actually agreed to put it on the TBR list to possibly read. But that’s an easy misinterpretation, so no biggy.

As a social grace I was willing to admit that I may have made a mistake though. So I responded thus,

Worked this time. It’s possible I missed it the first time, though I checked more than once. Either way, all fine now.

I don't work for youHere is where everything started to crumble for me. Here is where I said, ‘WTF? I don’t work for you.’ And in all fairness it was almost certainly unintentional on the part of the author. Email is the least formal of formal communication and we all know how easily it can be misinterpreted and that we have to be mindful of our tone.

Great! Don’t worry about it. Let me know when you’ve done the review and send me a link to it on your blog. Thanks. If you do author interviews/spotlight etc I would be interested in that if you like my book enough to do it. Take care and thanks again.

Still polite. Great. But there are two major issues here if you stop and think about it. That first sentence, “Great! Don’t worry about it.” is what you say to someone in order to forgive them for inconveniencing you. I should not be treated as someone who was done a favour. Please refer to paragraph one of this very blog post. Multiply it by the value of X since I was kind enough to go to extra effort to make sure I could, in the future, do the favour you are asking me for.

Second, and more to the point, “Let me know when you’ve done the review and send me a link to it on your blog.” is a direct order–not a request, not a solicitation, not a suggestion, an order. I don’t work for anyone any more. I’m not accustomed to being told what to do and, let me tell you, I do not appreciate it. Especially when, again, it breaches my standard single communication rule.

I’m sure this author wasn’t trying to pull a hierarchal coup. They weren’t trying to insult me and they probably weren’t even aware that this single, brief email takes incredible advantage of the goodwill I offer authors. It makes assumptions about the use of my time that they have no right to. It assumes that I am willing and able to remember a special instruction for one of hundreds of requests I receive in a year. It presumes that their book is important enough to deserve special treatment. It isn’t. No one’s is. I treat all request that come to me equally.

So, the point of this post is to…ok part of it is just to vent a little bit, but it’s primarily to remind authors looking for reviews to be as careful of the wording of their requests as they would be in any other professional exchange. Remember that you are seeking favours and, unless otherwise stated, not entering into any kind of obligated contract. Following direction is imperative. Being polite is appreciated. But not assuming you have a right to make demands is too.

volunteerI’ve seen such demands come in any number of forms. Almost always accompanied by a lack of understanding of the book blogger’s process and the effect of the sheer number of request received. Finding reviews is hard work. Finding reviewers who will accept indie and self-published books even harder. Stop and think about how much research it has taken you to find bloggers willing to accept you book. Stop and think again of how many other authors just like you are doing the same thing and then stop and think what it feels like for a blogger to get swarmed by all of you almost everyday. Then stop and remember that to us you and your book are just one of many, many we see.

I don’t mean to diminish how special you or your product are. You are each amazing. You wrote a book after all! But this isn’t the forum to be anything but modest and unassuming. Making demands not only won’t get you what you want it might just compromise the likelihood of being considered at all. The squeaky wheel doesn’t always get the grease. Sometimes it just gets discarded.

For the record, the above book is still on my TBR. It looks interesting. I’ll probably read it at some point. I’m not trying to pick on or punish this particular author for something tons of authors do in one way or another. (Hell, before becoming a blogger I probably did it myself.) But the point deserved some attention. When you’ve sent dozens, maybe even hundreds of review requests out it can be easy to fall into abbreviated actions that come across as just plain rude on the receiving end. I’m just throwing out one rather long winded reminder of that.