Reviewers–Our Lifeblood

Reviewers—Our Lifeblood.

After having sent out and received (cold) over 1,370 personalized review requests, I think I’m qualified to depart a little information on the topic of Book Review Requests. I’ll start the salvo off with a personal letter from a reviewer who happened to discuss some problem areas wherein authors were disrespectful and/or intimidating. I have her permission to post this material. Below her letter is my reaction and thoughts.

Hi!

So nice to hear from you again! I read the blurb at Amazon, and this one sounds much more to my liking. Go ahead and send the MOBI whenever you like. My reading schedule is pretty busy until the 15th, but I’ll see what I can do.

Surprisingly, about reviewing, it can be trickier than you think! Previous to 2019, I had been a casual reviewer. Voracious reader but only reviewed books now and again if I felt strongly about them (one way or the other). My new year’s resolution this year was to read 200 books and review each one of them. After some bad reverses at work, reviewing became a bit of an obsession. I have started to question my sanity about reading so many books, but I do love to read as it provides refuge.

What makes it tricky is that sometimes authors can do bad things to reviewers, either publically or privately. If I give what an author perceives as a bad review, I often get long diatribes about why I was wrong. A few authors have even commented (or had friends comment) on my reviews at Goodreads, saying that I misunderstood something or other; my favorite was when an author stated I should have inferred X about the book from its blurb (if you want me to know something… tell me… don’t expect me to have to figure out your meaning if you’re not clear). I don’t like the private notes, but the public calling outs are uncalled for. In two days in mid July, I was targeted by two different authors, one publically and one privately. The private one was a “publisher” asking me to take down a review at my site because they hadn’t given me permission to post it! Seriously! He used all sorts of legalistic language and was mildly threatening. The other author took my public review on Goodreads, made a screenshot that included my name, and posted it on her blog (which she broadcasts all over her social media channels), where she shredded my review and me. Over the course of a week or so, she continued to make defamatory remarks. I continue to get harassing emails from her friends; I received another just today. Sigh.

All this over book reviewing!

I joined a FB group for book bloggers just share my tales of woe and get feedback, and it was amazing how many came back with similar stories. Some have actually gone so far to never accept private requests for reviews because they don’t want the potential to be harassed by an author who knows their email address.

How sad that it has come to that. I think that’s why your lovely little line resonated with me. Balm for my wounded reviewer soul!

Regards,

Jamie

(My Response) Hi, Jamie.

Soulful words indeed. I’ve have seen instances of a total lack of respect for the reviewers, comments and emails comprised of hate speech, claims of stupidity and demands. I’ve been at this for the last 15 years straight (29 total), and I’ve mellowed with just about all literary pursuits. Everyone has to understand that this is all a collaborative effort and there are HUMAN beings with lives on the other end of these emails, especially reviewers. In my view, reviewers perform an impossible task by reading books from cover to cover and then writing about them and then linking them to all their social media sites. FOR FREE. For the enjoyment of it. I could Never do such a thing! The workload would topple me, frustrate me, hurt my feelings and take up enormous amounts of time. And even yet, reviewer’s mission statement are filled with enthusiasm and gratitude for the opportunity of reading someone else’s book. They are honored. Astonishing.

I’ve written articles on the proper way to query for reviews–this involved all aspects. I have a powerful writer website, and I’m about to really nail this subject again. I’ve enlightened every one of my publisher’s authors (with little comments) to abide by these tasks and pass them on. Read the policies through and through. Then read the bios and see who this person is and if you can click with anything of interest with them. Yes, it’s time consuming. But look at the time they take with you. And any author who sends a cold copy of a book to a reviewer should be automatically scratched. It’s discourteous. If they want one off the bat, they ask for it.

Sorry, but this advanced age publishing glut has hobbled the entire industry. Supply has eclipsed demand. Reviewers are overworked to the breaking point. How can they sift through trash without finding the true gems? I’m not talking about the majority of indies who are really setting the industry afire with true talent. I also believe that small and large press editors should redouble their efforts and weed out those mistakes in format, grammar, structure and all else

Nice conversing with you. You have confirmed my feelings. I promise to blast a message about this subject. I want you to know that you are valued as a pro reader and a person, and that you are real to me.

Kindly,

Chris

Let’s lay down some simple ground rules: read their bios and policy/guidelines. You’ll know exactly what to expect from every individual human reviewer. You can even read some of their reviews to check out their style and voice. You can tell a lot about a person from their background; job occupation, loves, hates, hobbies and wishes—and just look at all the baby, children and animal photos and references! You’re digging. This brings you close. It’s intimate, and it should be. Granted that most of your request package will be a cut and paste, but it is subject to change with every reviewer, and none of them are specifically the same. Give them, honor them with the first paragraph of your opening letter. You don’t have to pander. Politely disagree with them on a point or topic if you feel the need. Just communicate in real time.

Some reviewers will ask for a cover photo, a certain subject line heading, the best way to contact them; form or email. Some want paperbacks only, with many specifying their e-copy formats. Address them by name—if it isn’t listed go find it in their social media contacts. Don’t judge them by the number of their blog followers—this is a level playing field.

Find out what their policy is for DNF (did not finish) or low 1 and 2-star rankings. Many will give you the option of not publishing a very low rank. If you don’t want that low score, ask to opt out of the review. (This just happened to me with a paid review and I had no option to opt out. It shredded me. More about paid reviews later, or what they disguise as “marketing and social media expenses.”)

Target their genre. What’s their top pick? What are their secondary choices? What are their marginal genres? If you have a YA fantasy with a lot of violence and death in it, the reviewer might say they love YA fantasy, but say they can’t stomach horror in any fashion. That leaves you out, if that’s what you have. Don’t try to get by as an exception unless they ask you to explain those types of contents. If you have trigger warnings, spell them out up front. (I’ve made some mistakes with this).

If you don’t have a new release, don’t tell them you do. Generally, a new release can be less than a year old, but more commonly, three monts. If you are weeks within a release, state that up front and politely ask for an ASAP review. I’m over three months old with my release but I’m not asking for a quick review. I’ll take my place in line with the rest of them. In my mind, the reviewer is the pilot/captain—I’m the passenger with seat belt on and the tray in the upright. I’m not running this show. The reviewer is not your employee. They are an advocate for your product—not theirs—yours.

As an aside, I’ll pay for a cup of coffee as a donation, but I’m refusing to pay for any low-cost reviews. You can find out if they list services other than free reviews that might cost you, but those are generally legitimate services that involve extensive social media promotion campaigns. Just feel comfortable about what you’re getting into.

I could go on forever about this topic and I’ve left so much out that it will require another long blog post. For now, I’ll show you my request package. It’s a disorganized mess, but it’s working like a charm. Only because it covers just about everything they ask for. BUT remember your opening hello letter at the top.

I’ll red-shift outta her. Thanks for reading—Christy J. Breedlove and Chris H. Stevenson.

ETA: I doff my fedora to all the reviewers I’ve had contact with. So many of you are now my friends and subscriber buddies. You are the treasures in our industry.

(THIS IS YOUR HAPPY TO MEET YOU PARAGRAH)

 I know you must be swamped, and I’d like to just take the time to thank you for your unselfish service and dedication to us writers. The TBR piles are higher than K-2 out there. I don’t know if you are up for a review right at this time, but I thought I’d ask first. I abide by and honor your review policy. (A review on Amazon would be fabulous, but not a requirement).

Well, what makes this tome stand out? I think my book Screamcatcher: Web World is unique in that I have never seen a dream catcher used as a prop or device in the plot or theme of a book on the Internet. I had to create the inside reality of a web world. My book has shades of Indian lore in it, and I think the characters are diverse and well-drawn. It has a slow-burn sweet romance. I see this as a mash-up between Jumanji and The Hunger Games. I’ve included the cover blurb in this email for your perusal. For a deeper probe, you can click on Christy’s Amazon page. I hope you like this idea.

Most Kindly Yours,

Christy Breedlove (pen name)

AMAZON SCREAM PAGE: https://www.amazon.com/Screamcatcher-World-Christy-J-Breedlove-ebook/dp/B07QDK5M75/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Screamcatcher+Web+World&qid=1555016089&s=books&sr=1-1-spell

Amazon.com: Screamcatcher: Web World eBook: Christy J. Breedlove: Kindle Store Screamcatcher: Web World – Kindle edition by Christy J. Breedlove. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Screamcatcher: Web World. http://www.amazon.com

The pub date was officially 4-23-2019, so it’s a recent book. You can get to it whenever you please—I have no priorities or demands. The publisher is Melange Books, Fire & Ice. Age range: Upper YA 15—19. Pages: 218, Words: 67,000. Formats: PDF, Kindle/Mobi, E-Pub.

Summary:

When seventeen-year-old Jory Pike cannot shake the hellish nightmares of her parent’s deaths, she turns to an old family heirloom, a dream catcher. Even though she’s half blood Chippewa, Jory thinks old Native American lore is so yesterday, but she’s willing to give it a try. However, the dream catcher has had its fill of nightmares from an ancient and violent past. After a sleepover party, and during one of Jory’s most horrific dream episodes, the dream catcher implodes, sucking Jory and her three friends into its own world of trapped nightmares. They’re in an alternate universe—locked inside of an insane web world filled with murders, beasts and thieves. How can they find the center of the web where all good things are allowed to pass? Where is the light of salvation? Are they in hell?

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