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Monday, January 27, 2014

Taking A Look At Author Review Requests

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

When I first started my blog, I was eager to open it up to self-published authors who were looking for their books to be reviewed.  I was even a little awed that these authors would even consider giving a copy of their book to me.  Now I understand a bit more how hard it is to get attention for a new book - especially if it is self-published - and how amazing it is when a book reviewer will decide to give it a read.  There are just so many books out there!  And I have so many that I want to read at any given time, it's ridiculous to think of adding to my list (though of course I do all the time).  Over time, I've become much stricter in what I look for in self-published books.  It's mostly to do with my recent experience with reading outside of my favored genres and recognizing indicators that I might find a book disappointing.  Obviously these are my thoughts and opinions from my (short) experience only!

The Review Request Email

This post is only about self-published or small publishing companies requests since I have yet to receive an unsolicited email from a major publishing company (fingers crossed?).  Overall I have found authors to be lovely in their emails - they do all the right things like addressing the person by name, adding a synopsis, including a link to the book on Amazon, and just generally being polite.  Some even try to increase the personal touch with some comment on my blog or my review style.  Which is nice but not necessary.  When I look at the email I look for three things:
  1. Book Cover
  2. Book Genre
  3. Plot Synopsis
And in that order.  For me (and I am a little bit ashamed to say this) the book cover is my number one indicator.  If the book cover is great I will be more interested in the book.  And it is difficult to say what is a great cover.  It shouldn't look cheap, have bad image blending, or be bland.  At least for me, an attractive cover excites me for the content of the book.  Yes it is superficial, and it doesn't necessarily indicate book quality. Although I do kinda think what's on the outside generally reflects what's on the inside.  And I can't think of one book with a bad cover that I have really loved.  If I was an author I would really work hard on not selling that aspect of my book short.  It must look appealing!

I have a paragraph on my About page on what types of books I like to review.  It's fairly broad, but to try to be more specific would probably only encourage an author to skim and maybe just send the email request anyway.  I don't mind considering the book - I'm sure it must be difficult for the authors to go through so many blogger's About pages and try to comply!  So when I look at a request from an author I really appreciate it when the genre/synopsis is clearly marked out.  It makes it easier and faster for me to see if this is a book I would like to read.  I have received a fair amount of book requests over the months I've been blogging and I thought it would be interesting now to go back and see what kinds of books have been sent my way for a review request.  I went through my email and actually counted some up.  (I didn't know I had that much time either!)

What's in RED are the book genres I don't read, and what's in GREEN are the ones that I do.  Overall I've had 84 review requests in genres I don't like to read - about 36% of the time I am already not interested.  Which isn't very bad really.  It seems like authors are reading the About page (or I just got lucky) which is great!  I did have to use my discretion in categorizing some of the books though.  Authors sometimes categorize their own books very widely.  Which is really not a positive in my opinion.  I wonder at how cohesive the story is if it crosses so many genres.  And then I also wonder at whether or not the author is just trying to hit keywords.  I had one email where the author described their book as a YA/NA/Adult crossover.  Huh?  So it's pretty clear there are no children in this book.

Review Request Turn-Offs

While again, the majority of emails I receive from authors are great and if I have to turn down their request I feel bad, there are some things that make it easier to turn them down.

  • Email Blasts: Sending out one email to multiple recipients is understandable.  But if you are one of many it is easier to just ignore the email altogether.  In all probability the email won't really interest me anyways.

  • Wrong Name: Sometimes the email is not addressed to anybody or generically and that's okay, but if you have the wrong name - maybe you didn't mean to send it to me, and maybe then I don't need to read it.  Although one time it was addressed to "Jane" and that gave me a laugh!

  • No Information on the Book: I hate this!  When an author sends a request with just "Would you like to read my new book?" -  no synopsis, probably no cover or link to the book - how am I supposed to evaluate?  It's just lazy and really annoying.  

  • Quotes from Positive Reviews: It's great that the book has positive reviews, but it doesn't prove anything to me to have quotes from these reviews included in the email.  I do like to know what other reviewers think, but to have the author try to show me what opinions they think are valid is again very annoying.  And it lengthens an email which really doesn't need to be that long.

  • Email Attachments:  Actually I don't mind this so much if the relevant information is in the body of the email, but please don't expect me to open up an email attachment to read the plot synopsis or see the book cover.  (And if you can include the book cover in the body of your email that is fantastic!)  Sometimes an author will include a copy of the book with their request and although it is very presumptuous, I honestly don't mind it that much.  If I don't plan to read the book, I will not even download it so it's like it was never there.

  • Long Plot Synopsis: I do need to know what the book is about, but 4 or more long paragraphs detailing the plot is just too much!  And I don't have time to read all that! 

I think these are things that would generally turn off any book blogger, but in particular they do annoy me.  I personally don't do cover reveals on my blog so requests for those are turned down.  I also happen to find books in any genre that include "strong violence," "explicit," "gory" or "gritty" in their plot synopsis to not really be my thing.  These are things that have taken me quite a while to realize.  Book blogging has been a very interesting learning process, and with this post I was glad to reconsider what I expect from review requests.  In a way I hope this post will help any authors thinking of contacting me or another blogger for a review.  But if this post helps out new bloggers still struggling to deal with review requests that would make me very happy.  Thanks for reading!

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20 comments:

  1. I think the part about the cover is especially true for me. I believe there are two types of self-published books: ones that are pretty much professional with great editing and writing, and then the amateur ones. It's hard to know which one you're getting a request for- that's often why I ask for the first few chapters to read, just to try out the writing. The cover is a big indicator. If it's a professional, appealing cover, then I believe the author took some time to really care about their book. Then you have covers that are just stock images with Times New Roman font, and I don't care how amazing the premise is, I can't read that. It's not really about whether the cover attracts me, but how much effort is put into it. If effort is made on the cover, there's a greater chance that the rest of the book is well polished as well.

    Anyway, great post. I agree with a lot of what you said. :)

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

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    1. Oh good, I'm glad you also put such stock into book covers! I agree that a professional looking cover would seem to indicate a well crafted story - you definitely put it better than I did! And I'm glad you liked the post - thank you for your comment!

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  2. I've never been open to review requests. In all honesty I probably shouldn't even be on NetGalley if I want to get through my own TBR list, but I do like finding new authors and indie publishers I'd never have heard of otherwise. I just like to be in control of my choices. And yes, I know that even if I were open to requests it would still be my choice whether or not to accept... I guess I just don't want to have to say no!

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    1. I understand not wanting to take review requests - there is an obligation there - to keep up with your emails and evaluate all the books. It's just one more thing to do when you have real life, blogging and reading to take care of. I actually would love to be strong enough to not accept new books to read from anywhere until I finished my TBR pile, but that's too difficult! :)

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  3. Wow, Charlene. Just wow. You did so much work to write this post. This is amazing. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you Kim! I enjoyed putting this post together - it helped me just a little bit more to realize what I'm looking for from books! :)

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  4. This is quite a bit of work. Wow! I never thought about keeping track of all the review requests I get. I actually don't ever answer them anymore because I have on my blog I don't want any and honestly I just don't have time for them. If I was a faster reader maybe. My mom gave me a book recently to review for someone she works with and I just haven't read it yet. I should soon.

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    1. I like to label the reviews I get on gmail even if I reject the request so it wasn't too hard to count them all up. :) I know what you mean about not having time! I do set some time aside when I feel up to it to go through the requests and send back replies. I'm sure there will come a time when I'm not open to requests simply because I need to prioritize my time.

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  5. This is so interesting. As a blogger who's never had a "contact me for reviews here" label, I find this very informative--and a little daunting lol! But really, that's a lot of requests.
    Ninja Girl

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    1. LOL, yes it is a lot of requests to look through! I'm always looking for the perfect read so I go through the emails hopefully! I might have to stop though soon - I feel like I am getting too busy! Thanks for commenting!

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  6. When I first started blogging I accepted every request but now like you I am much more into narrowing down to the books I am most likely to want to read etc. Great post!

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    1. Yes, it's just too much to accept all the requests! And I never liked to find myself writing a review for a book I didn't like when I knew the author. Narrowing it down gives us less stress!

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  7. I love, love, love this post! I actually have a post scheduled about why bloggers refuse review quests and it mentions a lot of these things. Great minds, I say! I hate the wrong name thing and it's hard it happens SO OFTEN. Your graph is amazing, I really like how you broke everything down! I agree that I too have become a lot more selective when accepting requests.

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    1. Oh cool, I can't wait to read your thoughts on the subject then! Definitely GMTA! :D I do wonder at the wrong name thing - I think it is better to not address it to anyone in particular than get it wrong! It's been much easier dealing with the requests now that I've been more selective!

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  8. I love the graph you made! It makes me curious about what statistics I would have...
    I used to accept a lot of queries when I first started out, but now I'm getting pickier. I definitely like it when the book cover, genre, and synopsis are listed. A good cover can really sell me on a book too. But I've gotten so many emails that are just "Hi. I wrote a book, here's the link."
    It's funny how you got an email addressed to "Jane," though. :)

    Great post!

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

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    1. I was actually expecting to see more requests in genres that I don't read, so I was happy to see that authors are respecting that! I hope it's the same for you! Oh good, I feel a bit better to read that other people feel the same way about nice covers!

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  9. I've noticed that a lot of the requests I get are quite interesting, but I realized quite early that I simply don't have the time to read all those independently published novels - I have so many major-publisher novels that I want to read! I'm glad that there are some people out there who do read the indies, though, because it's hard for authors to find people to read their books! Thanks for the interesting post!

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    1. It's true, there are a few books that seem promising but whenever I'm on the fence about reading a indie book I've decided to just say no since there are so many books in my TBR list that I really want to get to. I know it is hard for the indie authors and I am glad to help in a small way if I can!

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  10. Love your graph! It's still an eye opener about how many requests you get for genres you don't even read. I had no idea when I started blogging how many requests I would get and in the beginning I accepted nearly all of them. Now it's the opposite, I only take on the odd few that REALLY interest me. And if you don't follow my review policy (goodread's link, etc) then I don't bother either. Seems mean but if an author wants me to spend hours reading and reviewing their books surely they can take 3 minutes to read my policy!

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    1. It is overwhelming to think of how many authors want to get a review from bloggers - I wonder if there are more book bloggers or more authors actually. :) It's definitely better to really pick the ones you are interested in so you don't get burnt out trying to keep up with reading so-so books as well as ones you are really interested in. I agree that it should be a common courtesy for an author to read your policy before requesting! They should prefer finding bloggers who would be really interested in their book!

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