Wednesday, August 14, 2013
The Hunt for the Elusive Reviewer
About three years ago, fellow author Lauri J Owen and I began a project. Between us, we decided to compile the most comprehensive list of book reviewers EVER! Two weeks ago, the list finally topped 300 reviewers, but I already knew a large chunk of it needed updating. We'd been busy adding new ones whenever we found them, but not going back to check those we had. Last year, a woman emailed me to share her huge file of romance reviewers and pointing out several dead and broken links on mine. But it's only in the last fortnight that I've really started a major overhaul as I hunt for suitable reviewers for the SFR Brigade's anthology.
I have to say it's been, on occasion, disheartening. Out of the 300 reviewers, I'm now down to 269 live and accurate links (many were dead, hadn't been posted to in over a year, had retired or quit, or the domain names had lapsed).
Of those, 44 are currently closed to review requests, with several others having restricted their openings by date, genre, or other preferences. 39 don't take self published works - an increase since we created the list - with some who formerly took self published work now rejecting it, or restricting it to authors previously trad/small press published and/or previously reviewed by the site in question. Some sites who do take it require a sample first and/or that the book has been professionally edited. In contrast, one site specializing in self published works specified they WON'T take anything that has been structurally and copy edited.
20 sites don't take ebooks (a slight rise, and perhaps surprising considering the increasing sales of digital versions). Many are not accepting ebooks either due to a backlog (either in general, or of ebooks specifically) or if a book is digital only. Some are specifying they won't accept an ebook that's only available on Amazon, while some will only consider a request if the book IS on Amazon. Several review sites take ebooks ONLY.
So, out of the remaining 269 reviewers, I've currently made 100 requests to those who accept digital-only, self-published science fiction romance. Out of those, I've had 7 say yes. Two others said no but offered me a book spotlight, with a third saying they may not review it (depending on time) but still offering me a promotional spot. One said no full stop. One had already reviewed it and another three had it on their TBR pile prior to my request. On a point of interest - one review site that had very tight restrictions on accepting self published works was very interested when I told her Linnea Sinclair had a story in the anthology (I discovered she was a fan of Linnea's after reading around on her website - this is where research is sooo important!). The rest have not (yet) responded. It's difficult to know how many aren't interested since many say they won't respond to requests unless they're accepting, or that no response after a certain time means not interested. Some ask you to nudge them if you don't hear.
But the number of dead links and those closed to requests, does this mean the professional reviewer is becoming a rare critter? Why are reviewers closing or restricting their requests? Is it the ease of self publishing which has overwhelmed these reviewers into closing? Is it the bad self published ones outnumbering the excellent ones, where authors have taken the time to have their work properly edited? The sheer volume of books now? The advent of eBooks, with many titles being digital only? Authors behaving badly? Maybe a mixture of all of that?
I can understand why even the most addicted bookaholic can get overwhelmed. I started reviewing for a site before I was published, then a second after getting my first contract. I made a commitment to review everything I read on Goodreads and Amazon. But I have less and less time to read, and I find myself growing ever more picky over books. Last year I had a DNF at my first review site. I've turned down pretty much every request from the second because either the book didn't appeal or the sample failed to impress. Last week I finally posted the review for a book I'd bought myself and read 14 months ago. Sheesh, how bad do I feel about that delay?! If I ran my own review site, the guilt alone would have me close it down in shame. The thing is that when I *do* read, it tends to be in a voracious burst, and I don't want to stop to write reviews. The one good thing about Goodreads is that you can at least rate without writing a review, unlike Amazon.
But according to a recent reader survey, it's reviews on Amazon that count more than those on Goodreads (which makes you wonder what Amazon might do knowing that. Or maybe they already know?). It makes sense to me that reviews on the actual retail site matter more - perhaps that final deciding factor in whether an unsure reader clicks that tempting buy button, even after all the sock puppetry and fake reviews. Now that Amazon have stopped restricting reviews by authors, I'm back to posting on there. But I have one rule. If I can't rate a book three stars at least, I won't post it. Cowardly? No. I'd just rather rave about the books I love than waste time on negative reviews for those I didn't. Not that I have an issue with anyone who writes a negative review, even if it's on one of MY books. I just don't want to do it myself. And while some may think me biased toward any of my fellow authors because I know/work with/am friends with, I'm not. If I didn't like your book, I won't have reviewed it. If I liked it, I'll have or will be rating it everywhere I can. It just might take a while...
For anyone associated with the anthology who would like a list of the review sites I submitted to, and what responses there have been so far (just in case any of you spot a new reviewer you think might like Tales and want to check it hasn't already been subbed there) you can email me at pippajaygreen at gmail dot com for the list. Any reviews I catch (not all reviewers notify you when and if a review goes live so I'm relying on Google Alerts) will be posted to the fanpage if they're good (and bad ones possibly to the Brigade group in case there's any feedback the authors might find useful).
I'm still waiting for news on four projects. one of which at least I should hear about in the next 24 hours. Aside from working on my reviewers list and submitting Tales, I've been focusing on promotion rather than writing over the summer, and trying to get my sites up to date and arrange events for September. Hopefully I'll be back to writing once my monsters are back to school. I've just finished tweaking a project, and it looks like I'll be finishing my decopunk superhero story and a couple of Venus Ascendant shorts I have in mind to join Terms & Conditions Apply.
Donna, enjoy your vacation!
Laurie, hope the month from hell won't be as hellish as you feared!
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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.