Thursday, November 20, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Review Books

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Suggested by JM:

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?

I enjoy answering BTT questions, I do. First, they always give me something to post about--and some days I need the prompt. Second, they give me something relevant to post about! Such is the case with this week's question. I've addressed it here and there in the past. But it's a topic I could go on and on about.

Every reviewer/blogger has choices to make. Do they review only books they love/like? Or do they write reviews of books they don't like? How blatant should they be about it? Do they accept review copies from authors and publishers? Or review only books they buy, own, or borrow?

Now for me and my choices.

I review EVERY book that I complete. There have been a *few* exceptions. There has been a book or two that I forgot to review, it set there by the computer--usually got covered up at some point--and then by the time I realize I haven't reviewed it...I've forgotten the book completely. Still for every three hundred or so books, that only happens once or twice. So essentially every book.

I do accept review copies. From authors. From publishers. But I don't promise a review--positive OR negative. I promise to give every book I receive the 50 page test. If I'm not hooked by 50 pages, I'm not obligated to finish it. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't. But I don't guarantee anything.

I do state that my reviews are honest ones. I'm not afraid to write negative reviews. I'm not afraid of receiving hate mail. My philosophy is that if authors can't get past a negative review now and then, they're the ones with the problem...not me. When an author becomes published--then you've opened up the door to criticism. Some will like your book. Some will love it. Some will think it's the best book ever and recommend it to their friends. Some will be bored. Some will hate it. Some might even not think it's worth the paper it's printed on. You've got to take the good with the bad and ugly. You can't please everyone. Especially if you're Stephenie Meyer.

I *do* recommend bloggers write review policies and post them on their blogs. This is for both parties really. It gives you the opportunity to express how you feel about the subject, and it allows them to see if you're a good match for what they want and expect. I think it is the respectable thing to do. You're honest. You're up front. Negative reviews can't be seen as a sneak attack if your policy is clearly stated!

I also enourage authors and publishers to read my site--explore the archives, get a sense of what I do, what I like, what I could potentially offer them.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous,  1:24 PM  

You've said it all and is beautifully stated. If authors couldn't handle negative reviews, which have 50/50 chance, they shouldn't even bother handing books out for publicity. I think our society has become too afraid to speak the truth, instead it's advertising in careful words, euphemisms, and cliches that are vague and ambivalent. I don't believe there is anything so bad that will get past an editorial team and book agent to be published, but still not every book merit a 5-star rating. As long as the reviewers speak the truth of his/her opinion and is backed by examples, then even a negative review is a good review.

I never adopted the 1-5 scale because I find it very difficult for the sake of consistency. I might have come across a book that ultimately is the book and so I should give it a 6 stars? I like Times Magazine's scale---Read, Skim, or Toss. But I usually don't overtly state a rating, I try to strike a balance of the good and bad.

I should seriously consider posting review policies. Given my spontaneous nature, it will take me a while to verbalize them. I don't review all the ARCs---especially the ones that aren't up my alley.

Anonymous,  2:30 PM  

I've had a review policy on my blog for a while now and it gives me much comfort that it's there! I review every book that I read to and also the ones I give up on halfway through.

SmilingSally 3:11 PM  

I respect you and the wonderful work you do. However, I disagree with the whole idea of the necessity of stating the obvious: that I am a honest reviewer. Please come see my answer.

Michele 10:01 PM  

And this is why, Becky, that I come to your blog for no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is reviews! You've certainly got my respect and I hope it shows when I add one of your reviewed books to my TBR pile. :)

MotherReader 9:52 AM  

I am seriously impressed that you review every book you read. I doubt that I review even half of the novels I read, and when I do, it's fairly random. Driven less by how much I liked or even disliked the book, and more by how much I feel like writing about it.

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I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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