When I converted this blog from a catch-all for my mental meanderings to primarily a book review blog, with an emphasis on books by indie authors, I knew it would be a lot of work. It’s been a learning process, much as my own foray into indie publishing. I knew going in that once word got out that I did book reviews, I would receive numerous requests for reviews—and boy, was I ever right. I’m deluged with requests from authors to review their books to the tune of four or five every week. Some days, I get three or four requests.
Now, I’m a voracious reader, so I’m happy to accept books to read and review, but since I decided that one posted review per day is probably the most my readers will be willing to put up with, that does put a limit on what I’m able to do; that, and the fact that I do have other things to do. I have my own books to write, edit, format, and publish—oh, and market—a time-consuming job, believe me. In addition, I recently started a line of fashion design incorporating my photography; I’m collaborating with my wife on a collection of paintings, in preparation for an upcoming exhibition; I’m on the board of a few non-profits; I do a summer writing workshop; I like to get out occasionally to take pictures; and I speak and lecture frequently in the Washington, DC area. So, I am able to read only about two books per day at most, and then I have to block out time to write the reviews, which in addition to posting here, I post on Amazon and Goodreads—and on occasion on Barnes and Noble.
I buy some of the books I review, but only if I know the author and it’s a genre I like. If an unknown author wants me to review a book, he or she must provide me with a copy, either hard copy or e-book. And, of course, I cannot guarantee that I’ll write a review, or when I might get around to it. It’s first-come, first-serve.
Now, if you’re an indie author, and you’ve sent me a book to review, but you haven’t seen my review online, you’re probably wondering; what’s up? Please let me explain.
It might be that I’ve just not gotten around to it. All I can advise is, please be patient. If I haven’t decided not to review it, it will eventually appear. If, on the other hand, I decide not to review it, I’m afraid that’s the end of that, and for that, I apologize. In the early days of my reviewing, I often contacted the author and explained that I was not reviewing the book and why. That turned out to be a bad idea.
Usually, my reason for not reviewing a book is that it just doesn’t make it. It’s poorly written; bad grammar, poor editing, formatting or proofreading, or too many typos. When I told authors this, many would write back wanting specifics. Sorry, but that’s not gonna happen. Editing and proofreading is labor intensive, and it takes time (unpaid time) that I need to devote to my income generating activities. As a courtesy, if an author has asked me to review a book, and I can’t give it at least four stars, I won’t write the review. In fact, I usually don’t even finish reading the book, because I know it will be a waste of my time. It makes me sad to see an otherwise good story that is poorly written or edited. I’d like to be able to help such authors do a better job, but not as an unpaid editor. Nor, for that matter, do I even want to be a paid editor.
But, I am willing to dispense some free advice. If I haven’t reviewed your book in four months, you can safely assume that I will not review it, and the reason will be one of the things mentioned in the previous paragraph. At that point, do what I do when someone pans one of my books. Read it again, carefully, not as the author, but as if you’re a total stranger reading it for the first time. Read it objectively. Is your grammar off? Are there typos? Is the formatting different from other books (paragraphs not indented properly, spacing different)? Do you tend to purple prose or over-writing, or do you use excessive speech tags (he roared, whistled, groaned, etc.)? If so, rewrite, cut, add, or whatever you must to make it better. If, after doing this, you want to run it by me again, I’m always here, and I’ll happily add it to my queue—without any promises. What I cannot do is give you a line-by-line, page-by-page list of what’s wrong.
I read almost any genre, but there some I find hard to review. Stories that are just one sex scene after another, with little in the way of story to tie the scenes together; stories that make fun of handicaps, religion, gender, or ethnicity turn me off, as do stories that lack credibility, or just get facts wrong.
There you have it. Those are my review guidelines. Comply with them, and your book will eventually get reviewed. As an indie author myself, I know how important reviews are, and I have no wish to discourage struggling authors. As much as I can, I’m there for you, so keep writing and keep trying.