As I approach the end of writing my first novel, I’ve started putting together a list of book review bloggers, complete with name, email, preferred genres, submission policies, etc., and let me tell you—I think more people blog about books than actually buy them. The more I work on this list, the more my list of sites to check out grows. Finishing this list may take longer than writing the novel. The list is eight pages long and I’m still on the As.
Some of these bloggers have tons of followers, but, once again, I’m starting to wonder if most of them are people who’ve written books and are hoping to get reviewed. How many people actually read books and don’t either write them as well or blog about them? And probably even fewer people read book blogs. I guess I should start reading the comments after the reviews to learn more about the people who read them.
I’m putting so much time into this list that I’m thinking I should make it public, once finished. Other writers could benefit from it. Or, shoot, it’s taking so much work, maybe I should sell it. But then I’ll probably finish page 105 of the list and discover that an even more comprehensive and easy-to-use list has already been published.
Regardless, I think it’s a good exercise. I’m getting a sense of what people are reading (or, at least, reviewing) and what they absolutely refuse to read. Lots scorn thrillers and horror, and here I thought those were two of the most popular genres. They always seem to be on the bestseller lists, at any rate. Odd.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that some book reviewers get burned out after a while. Feeling pressured to review books that come in by the score takes the fun out of reading, and god forbid. I haven’t even really started reviewing books yet (not sure that’s what I want this blog to be about), but I’ve got several lined up to review. And, yes, I feel pressured. Not just to read them, or even to write a review, but to write a review that doesn’t crush that fragile writerly ego.
Fortunately, what I’ve read so far of the first book I’ll review, Rose’s Will by Denise DeSio, is very good. The characters are well-defined and have unique voices. The romance between one of the primary narrators and her partner is a little too perfect to be believable, but maybe that will change.
Some reviewers have a star system for rating their books, and then organize their reviews by star so people can go immediately to the best of the bunch. Seems like a good idea. Maybe I’ll steal it.
You may be wondering why, if I’m anticipating a book review blogger list of at least 100 pages (it’ll probably be longer), I would bother to do what so many other people are already doing. Well, free books, natch. I need to keep an eye on contemporary fiction anyway, so why not get the books for nothing? Seems like a deal to me.
I have discovered, though, that it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into before committing to reading and reviewing something, so if you’re a writer and you’d like a review, I’ve got a couple initial policies:
- Don’t just send the book; send me a query letter first (to firstname.lastname@example.org). Put “review request” in the subject line and your book’s title and a brief synopsis in the body of the email. Be as long-winded as you like, but don’t tell me the ending. I’ll probably get back to you within a day or two and let you know if I think I might enjoy it.
- If you need a review quickly, then look somewhere else. I have a ton of things on my To Do list, and reading tends to fall below mid-way. It’ll be a few weeks, probably, before I get to your piece.
- I prefer to read literary fiction, including short stories, but I’m open to most genres, except Christian fiction and war-themed or apocalyptic work. I don’t like fantasy. On rare occasion I’ll read sci fi.
- If you’re okay with having criticism of your work appear on the Web, fine. If you’re not, some reviewers out there only write reviews if they like the book, so look for them.
That’s about it. Many reviewers dedicate a full page to all of their policies and “I will” and “I won’t,” but I’ll keep it at that unless I find myself needing to set more boundaries. Just to be a good Samaritan, I’ll look into posting my reviews on reader Web sites, like Goodreads, to expand my reach.
I don’t plan to focus solely on book reviews. This blog is still figuring itself out, and I intend to let it. But as someone whose book will need reviewing soon, I want to give before I take.