Friday, May 21, 2010

Reviewer's Guilt

When Cheryl posts a new lot of queries I always feel a little guilty. In the average week I don’t request any books. At my current rate I review about one book a month (50 since 2006), and about half of those are books I bought for myself. On one hand I feel guilty for the wasted effort that authors put into writing the queries, on the other hand I figure it is good practice and better than having actual unwanted copies of the book floating around.

In some ways it is even worse if I do like the look of a book. I have a job, books to write, blogs to run and a to-be-read pile that doubles as a (somewhat lumpy) coffee table. There is just no way in the world that there is enough time to read all the intriguing self-published books that we are offered. Which, I guess, as problems go—isn’t a bad one. It is not just the volume of self-published books that has increased over the years but also the diversity and the quality.

In the end all I can promise is that I read every query and I seriously consider requesting the book, as—I am sure—do Chris and Cheryl. If your query was unsuccessful this is almost certainly down to a matter of genre, or taste, or sheer lack of time. And if you know of anyone who would like to join our reviewing team, send them along. There is no shortage of books for them!


Shannon said...

I feel the same way sometimes over at LLBR. For every review written,there's at least five queries we turned down for the same reasons you say here...mostly lack of interest and sometimes poor formatting. If I wasn't as passionate about the community as you guys are, I would have given up long ago. Keep up the good work!

Jim Murdoch said...

I can sympathise. I do one book review a week and that’s my limit. And I still have a shelf full of unread books with more pouring through the letterbox. My daughter presented me three books for my birthday and I groaned internally knowing I’d not read the books she gave me for Christmas yet. I almost never set foot inside a traditional bookshop because I rarely buy books any more but when I do I rely on online reviewers and so when I find myself with a book to review I’m writing what I would like to read. I don’t do many self-published books simply because I’m not asked very often.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Well, the NYT doesn't review every book that hits their review desk either. It's just the nature of the business, and it makes no difference if it's self-published or traditionally published. It's just that there are fewer venues who review SP books. People aren't lining up to review my books either. I have to go through the query process like everyone else. For me, as it is for most reviewers, it's a matter of taste most of the time.

I go through the queries and if they aren't well written I generally pass. If the query doesn't include a link to a preview, I pass. And if I read the preview and there are grammatical issues, again, I pass, but mostly, I pass on specific genres and or styles of writing and that is purely a taste thing, nothing more.

We are but a few to do a job for many, not to mention we all have day jobs, our own writing careers, and other hobbies and activities as well, including our own personal reading. I average about one SP book a month, and that's mostly because it takes me forever to write a nice, long well-thought-out review. I could rush and do a one-liner, but who would benefit from that?

When I accept a book for review, I let the author know that it can take upwards of 10+ weeks to get a review and that I will keep them posted when I start reading the book. I haven't had a complaint yet, and I don't accept more than I can handle, so that means I have to pass on some for no other reason than I am booked solid. I prefer no more than 10 in my queue at any one time.

LLBR said...

Just many books does PodPeep receive queries for a month? We just went a whole month without receiving even one. Our back log is pretty thick right now so it doesn't matter, but we seem to have hit a dry spell.


Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

I go through the queries weekly and we get on the average 10 per week, sometimes more, but many are for genres we don't review, so I just archive those: childrens books, YA books, self-help books, and memoirs. Lately thrillers have been the primary genre, but we don't review a lot of mainstream-like thrillers.

Henry Baum said...

This is one of the main reasons I'm looking for a co-editor at SPR. I feel horribly guilty about having to reject people's books, but there are too many to handle. I abhor the gatekeeping process and somehow I've become another gatekeeper.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

You said a mouthful Henry. But we aren't gatekeeping in the same way the traditional publishing industry gatekeeps: sure quality comes into play, somewhat, but marketability is the real criteria.

With indie gatekeepers like us, we are looking for quality too, but I think we are looking for new voices and new ideas, new thoughts more so than just what sells.

So yes, I gatekeep a little, but only when it comes to a story being grammatically and structurally well written. You gotta learn the language and the theory. That's my only real sticking point. For me, I am looking for style and substance. Nothing wrong with gatekeeping by that mantra.

Shannon said...


Fill free to suggest people to query us for the ones you turn down. We have one reviewer who only does YA.


Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Will do Shannon.