Monday, July 07, 2008

What, When, Where, Why and How?

As a freelancer, writers are constantly asking me the following questions:
  1. How do you pick which books to review?
  2. How far in advance do you need a book in order to review it?
  3. Do I need a press kit, author bio, video trailer, etc?
  4. Why didn't you review my book?
  5. In your blog you said you loved the book. Why didn't you review it for Time Out or The Sun-Times?

Some of these issues have been addressed, but I thought I'd give a few of my own answers.

  1. There are many factors in choosing which books to review, even read. #1 is what the book is about. I tend to stay away from cozies, romance novels, westerns, etc. I read the back cover or the press release and if it sounds interesting, I'll start it. Then I'll keep reading until I don't want to anymore. That's the biggest trick to getting a book reviewed: write a book that a reviewer can't put down. But time is another factor. It can be a great book, but if the pub date has already passed, I can't really review it. Which brings us to...
  2. Get reviewers advanced copies ASAP. If your publisher doesn't do ARCs, ask the reviewer if they'd mind reading it in manuscript format and send it off yourself. Turnaround time can be super slow, especially with limited print space. Most of my editors are asking me for books that are to be published in September and October. That means the "to-be-reads" I have with August publication dates most likely won't get reviewed.
  3. Ultimately, I don't care about all the bells and whistles. Don't waste your press kits on me. But I'm not just a reviewer, I also write profiles and conduct Q&A's. If there's something interesting in your author bio, I want to know about it. You may end up with a 800-word feature rather than a 150-word review.
  4. Of all the questions, this is the one I hate the most. Just because I didn't review your book does not mean it isn't good. It usually means one of two things: either it just wasn't the book for me or because of any of the factors listed above, I couldn't review it. Even some of the books I loved couldn't get reviewed because of print space, timing, whatever. It's not a reflection on the book. But I think I speak for most reviewers when I say I hate getting asked this question and it will make me think twice before reading anything by the person who asked it.
  5. Another question I can't stand and part of me still doesn't believe I've been asked this. Part of the reason I have this blog is to give press to books that deserve it but for whatever reason, couldn't get in to print. It's for those books that I loved but were sent to me late or have too much of a niche market or for whatever reason my editors passed on. While I have control over what I read and what I review, I don't have control over what goes to print. The Sun-Times prints one page of reviews a week; whoever gets in is damn lucky. This is true for papers across the country. In a market where it's getting harder and harder to be reviewed, I say take press where you can get it. Trust me, if I love a book, I'm pitching it wherever I can and the only reason a book ends up on my blog is because I think it's worth mentioning.

I hope this clears some things up for authors. Of course, every reviewer works a little differently, but I'd say most would agree.

No comments: