Before I get the list of reasons I write reviews of almost all the books I read let me give you a little background about why I decided to write this post today. I’ll also acknowledge up front that I’m well aware that the fact that, no matter how much I say I love authors, the fact that I I complain quite so regularly about the book requests I get makes me seem bitchy and extra sensitive. My only real excuse is that something might not bother you (or me) generally, but once you’ve encountered it the four thousandth time you get pretty persnickety about it. You’re welcome to just think I’m a bitch though.
So, this all came up today when I got a book review request. There wasn’t anything really horrifying about it except that it was thin on the particular details I’d use to decide if I actually want to read the book or not. I’m not going to quote it directly, I’m not trying to shame the author AT ALL. But the author basically only gave me the title, release date, blurb, an Amazon link, and the fact that it’s a “Fantasy story of approximately 43,000 words, set in medieval times.” And while that might seem like enough, I like a cover image and there was no mention of what format was being offered for review. I’m currently only open to physical books, and many books aren’t available in physical formats these days, so this needs to be explicitly stated. (This one, for example, has no physical edition listed on Amazon, so it likely doesn’t meet my stated policies.)
But more than that, what I discovered when I when I followed the Amazon link is that the book is book four in a series. So, I politely wrote the author back and declined the review request, stating that I wasn’t prepared to read a fourth book without having read the previous books, nor was I in a position to commit to reading four books (even short ones). More honestly, I’m not going to accept four books from an unknown author, who’s writing I might not like. Even more honestly, I’m gun-shy of male fantasy authors and I’m not going to accept four fantasy books, written by a man, that I might find no relatable female characters in. One I might chance, but not four.
The author wrote me back, saying “Just to let you know, the XXX are a loosely connected series. I have tried to make it so that you can read them out of order without it being an issue. That said, XXX is the first one in the series where it might be useful to the reader to know what happened in the previous book, XXX“.
And here is where this story becomes relevant to this post. I glanced up at my husband and said, “Why wasn’t all of that pertinent information in the first email? Why make me ask for it?” Of course, I had to then explain what I was talking about. And my husband reasonably responded by reminding me that I’d just recently written a whole post about a bad book review request and here I was raising an eyebrow at another one. Why keep my review requests open at all? I’m accepting very many. Why keep reviewing at all?
To be clear, this wasn’t a bad request on the magnitude of the one I wrote about last week. It was just one that probably didn’t really fit my stated preferences (again, no physical format apparently available) and lacking important information. But the Marital Unit’s question got me thinking, both about why I keep my request queue open and why I review at all. Then I went and took a shower, which meant I had 15 uninterrupted minutes to think on my answer.
So, I decided to work it out on paper (or the blog) while I drink one more cup of tea, before going downstairs to listen to an audio book and fold about four hundred loads of clean laundry.
The first question can be answered easily. I keep my review requests open because I know authors have a numerical dependency on reviews. Good or bad they need numbers, they need reviews. But it’s also extremely hard to find reviewers for indie and self-published books. So, I enjoy the thought of being helpful in this particular regard.
It’s true that I’m not accepting very many these days. But that is largely because I’ve told myself I’m only going to accept physical copies of books I’m truly interested in. I’ve tried many different methods of accepting requests over the years and the end results always seems to be feast or famine. I’m either being flooded with irrelevant requests or lock it down so tight they trickle in (and still only a fraction of that trickle are truly meet my stated preferences and requirements). I’m fairly locked down right now.
The question of why I review in general is much more multi-layered, though perhaps not more complicated.
- I write reviews because I enjoy it. I enjoy the distillation of my thought on a book and reading experience, and the sense of conclusion writing a review gives that reading experience. It’s wholly about me. I enjoy it.
- I write reviews because I am a bit of a list-maker and collector. I really like to see the number of books read and reviewed pile up. I love that end of year tally. It’s wholly about me. I enjoy it.
- I write reviews because it creates a record that I can go back and reference if I’ve forgotten the details of a book (or if I’ve read the book at all). It’s wholly about me. I enjoy the help.
- I write reviews because it enables me to compare reviews with my book-friends and prompts interesting book-discussions. It’s all about me. I enjoy it.
- I write reviews because I know other readers find them helpful (reviews in general, not necessarily mine) and I like to be helpful. It’s mostly about me. I enjoy it.
- I write reviews because I know authors need them and I like to help. It’s mostly about me. I enjoy it.
I do not, however, write reviews to help authors become better writers. I actually really hate this particular point in the ‘why you should review books’ debate. I don’t consider myself in a position to teach authors. I can often recognize flat out poor writing (which is usually due to a lack of editor, rather than an actual lack of skill) and I might call that out, but beyond that, I don’t consider helping authors be better authors in my wheelhouse. I like to be helpful, but I get to decide what I’m helpful about. And that doesn’t make the list.
I also don’t write reviews so that I can get free books. Lord knows I have no shortage of books already. A copy of a book is expected to facilitate my ability to read and review said book, but the receipt of a free book (especially an ebook) is in no way a reason for me to review.
I don’t write reviews to make myself look smart. I don’t write reviews to be purposefully cruel or bully authors. (I’ve been accused of this.) I don’t write reviews because I’m on an ego trip or have any axe to grind. I don’t write reviews to further any political, social, or personal agenda.
I write reviews because I enjoy writing them. That’s really what it comes down to. Everything else is bonus.
How about you; do you write reviews? If so, why? And if not, why not?