I realize that this title makes me sound like an author-hating bitch. Odd, for a book reviewer who reads 200-300 books a year, I know. And I promise I’m not. I love books and the authors who create them. But I’ve run this little hobby blog since 2013. It’s gone through some changes— sometimes more active than others, sometimes open to more commentary than other times, sometimes more available for review requests than others, sometimes reading/reviewing more of one genre or another. But one thing has stayed the same. Authors are desperate for reviews and in their desperation and haste, they overtax reviewers open to them.
I’ve written this post before, or ones like it. (I’ll link some of them at the bottom.) In fact, I think I’ve written some version of it almost every year I’ve had this blog. Thus, my complete bluntness in the title. I’ve tried polite. It gets ignored. And here-in lies the entire point of this post. IT GETS IGNORED.
Let me backtrack a little and establish that I do know what it’s like to be a new author who is told the absolute key to their success is getting enough reviews and scrambling to find someone—anyone—to read and review their book. I remember it feeling like I was yelling into the void for attention and getting none. I also admit that when I published The Weeping Empress and sought reviews, I hadn’t started this blog and learned what it’s like on the other side of the request yet. I probably wasn’t as good at making requests as I’d like to remember myself as.
None of that changes the fact that for seven years I’ve struggled with the same thing; it’s the most frustrating part of keeping this blog. And that’s the fact that too many authors, publishers, directors of media, PR teams, assistants, etc (I’ll just use authors for short) don’t read the policies of the blogs they submit review requests to. They take no time and make no effort to research bloggers before emailing them.
No, actually that’s not the most frustrating, it’s related, but not THE MOST frustrating. The most frustrating is the person who has read the policies and preferences, knows their book doesn’t fit, and still requests a review. I have written more than one one-star review over the years that the author could have avoided if they’d paid even a little attention to my stated preferences. If you write manly-man, patriarchal fiction, for example, and submit it to a feminist blogger, can you really blame anyone but yourself for that response? Is your anger really justified?
There are hundreds of reviews on this blog. It’s easy enough to read a few and see what I’m like as a reader and reviewer. And though my policies don’t always stay the same (as I said, there have been changes over the years), I’ve always stated what genres I’m interested in and what formats I accept or don’t. But honestly, it often feels like I might as well have left the paragraph blank for as much difference as it makes to the requests I receive. I often cite as an example, I can say “I don’t read short stories, Christian fiction or YA titles” and you can guarantee I will get more than one request for a short, Christian YA book review. ALWAYS.
At the moment, for example, I am only accepting physical books for review. But I’m still getting frequent emails with ebooks attached. Because of course, I am. And this brings me to another point I think authors need to be reminded of.
There seems to be a disconnect between how an author feels about sending a free book and how a blogger (or this blogger) feels about receiving them. Authors seem to see a free book as a perk or a gift. I see them as an obligation. If I receive a book review request from you, it requires something of me—the time to read it, the decision to respond or not, time to respond, the mental space deal with you. If I receive a copy of a book too, I have to decide what to do with it, dedicate storage space to it, keep it and thousands of other titles organized in some fashion.
I recently spent literally days working on this. Look at the numbers involved and really stop and think about whether receiving another unsolicited ebook is really going to be a thrill.
This is the pool authors who decide, “Well, she says she doesn’t read thrillers, but maybe mine will be an exception, I’ll send it anyway” is tossing their book into. I promise you, you are not an exception. If I’ve said I don’t want your sort of book, I don’t want it. Really, I don’t. That’s not an indictment of you, your writing, your book, or your genre. It’s simply a difference of preferences and asking that you not make an inconvenience of yourself. Don’t ignore the blogger’s stated preferences, not even just in case.
I’m going to make a controversial, possibly insulting statement here. Based on my anecdotal experience, men seem to be a lot worse about this than women. So, I’m going to repeat myself for the male authors especially, don’t skip reading the preferences and don’t ignore them if you do read them, not even just in case.
I realize that this may come across as arrogant, privileged, or as biting the hand that feeds me. (Though I have more books than I could ever read even without accepting any free ones.) But I repeat this little rant almost every year because it bears repeating. And it needs repeating because it is an ongoing problem. I want reviewing to be fun, but often it’s just monotonous labor of filtering unwanted books out of my TBR. None of the work listed above is overwhelming until it becomes endless and seemingly pointless because none of it focuses on the genres or formats you actually accept.
A lot of authors seem to employ what I call the scattershot method of book review requests. They just throw them out willy-nilly in the hopes that someone will pick it up, rather than taking the time to find the few reviewers most likely to read their book. And it not that I don’t understand the appeal. If you’re not guaranteed a return, it feels like a waste to take the slow, more labor-intensive path.
But the labor has to be done, and if not by you, then by me and my ilk. Does that really feel advisable, making the people you’re asking to perform a needed task for free do the work you skived off of? Further, it’s going to take us hours to read and review your book (sometimes many, if it’s lengthy). The least you can give us is the two or three minutes it takes to read our policies/procedures/preferences and the decency to follow them. Who’s the arrogant one if you won’t even hold up that end of the exchange?
Again, I know this sounds bitchy. Unlike some years this isn’t written in response to any particular exchange. I was just randomly thinking about it in the shower this morning. (Shower thoughts, who can avoid them?) But I thought I’d take the moment to reiterate again to please read and follow directions, even when it results in the decision not to submit to a particular blog. I know that’s disappointing when reviewers open to requests are so hard to come by. But if you want reviewers to keep those request slots open you have to compromise somewhere.
If you’re one of the good ones, the ones I’ve never seen because you read my preferences and didn’t submit, or someone who had a book that did and submitted per instructions, thank you. I mean that fully and completely. Thank you for being one of the easy ones. It’s too easy to complain about the irritants and forget those who aren’t. It’s you I keep my review requests open for, even when it would be easier to close them.
Here are a couple of my past stroppy posts:
And I’ll throw this last one in as a bonus. It’s several years old, but on theme.