I have felt for some time the need to state a book reviewing policy, built on some of the guidelines that I've already published a couple of times in earlier posts.
As the little box in the top right corner says, I'm seriously addicted to crime fiction. That means that I read almost nothing else, although I do tackle the full range of the crime fiction genre.
I read books supplied to me by publishers, and directly by authors, as well as books I buy or borrow from the library for discussion in a variety of fora, such as Yahoo lists, and face to face groups.
Basically once I start reading a book, I try to finish it it. And I also try to write a review of all the books that I read.
That means that I write a review whether I enjoy the book or not, and even if I don't finish it.
Of course, not every review I write will be favourable, and even though I will try to say something positive about a book, that is not always possible.
I am very aware though that not every one shares my taste in books, so I do attempt to say what I did or didn't like.
Notes to publishers and authors:
- I read crime fiction books in all formats, including e-books (Kindle)
- I often use plot description/blurbs from publishers websites and will usually check author and publisher websites for details about the author and other books. I usually follow the blurb with a section headed My Take where I try to describe how the book struck me.
- After I have posted a review I will contact you to tell you where it is located.
- I will often link the review to reviews by others,
- I am happy for you to use text from my review(s) in promotional material, but I do like to be notified.
- I always have far too many books in my TBR (to be read) pile, and I reserve the right to decide not to read a book. I can't predict when I will get around to the book you have supplied.
- I am happy to publish an "author review" using mutually agreed questions. (but I must have read the book)
- I nearly always hand books on to others, and sometimes use them in a competition on my blog. Here is a sample.
I have been storing reviews on MYSTERIES IN PARADISE since the beginning of 2008 and now have organised indexes of my reviews.
I also store all my book reviews on Library Thing (612 reviews there) and contribute to a variety of Blog Carnivals.
The following is culled from an earlier posting.
The general mechanics
- As I read the novel, if there is something I want to remember, an incident, a quote, I will use a post-it note to mark the place. I find though if there are too many of these, they are of no help at all.
- Sometimes I write a blog posting which I call a progress report. That seems to help me clarify my ideas about what I've read so far. I follow that up with a full review after I've finished the book.
- I try to write the review almost as soon as I've finished the book. I have a wonderful forgettery that sieves detail out pretty quickly, so the sooner the better. I probably couldn't write a review 2 or 3 weeks after reading a book without a quick re-read.
- I only read one book at a time. It helps me focus on that particular book. I'm not sure that I would be able to think clearly about one book if I had several working their way around in my brain.
- I write reviews for all the books I read, whether I like them or not, even when I can't finish the book - unless I didn't read few more than a few pages.
- I rate all the books I read.
I have a rating scale of 0-5 and it is possible to score anything in that range.
My general benchmarks are
- 5.0 Excellent 4.0 Very Good 3.0 Average 2.0 Poor 1.0 Did Not Like 0 Did Not Finish
- I keep records in a database, write my book reviews as blog postings, list them on Smik's Reviews, put them up on Library Thing, and store selected ones on Reviewer's Choice.
- I belong to a small Yahoo group that critiques reviews if I submit them. I don't submit all my reviews for critique but the process is often useful.
- I always do some research about the author, find lists of books previously written, author website etc. I'm not always precious about reading reviews that others have read. It's often interesting to see what about the book they chose to highlight but what they've said is unlikely to influence my take on the book. I do include some of the research links in my review.
- I include publisher, year of publishing, ISBN number, and number of pages at the top of the review.
- The first two paragraphs are about the beginning of the book, but based on the principle that I rarely include anything from the story that comes after page 50. I don't want to spoil the experience for the reader, just whet their appetite. Blurbs that you find on the book itself often reveal more than I do. The rule is no spoilers ever.
- Then I talk about the structure of the book - whose point of view was it written from? themes that emerged. Strong characters, historical settings
- Next comes how I felt about the book. What I liked, disliked, what narked me beyond belief. Not just what but why.
- Where does this book fit? A debut novel? Part of a series? Where can the reader find more about the author or other books? Anything other interesting titbits my research has revealed.
- My rating.
Q: Why do you write a review?
A: It helps me clarify my own feelings about the book. I'm also writing for others who might want to read it. And then finally, sometimes, as feed back to the author.
Q: How long does it take to write a review?
A: At the very minimum an hour to get my ideas down and organised. Longer if you include the research time. If it goes through the critique process, then you have to be more patient, because getting feedback from others can take days.
Q: Are you a real reviewer?
A: Well, I'm not a journalist, if that's what you are asking. But I have degrees, have taught English, and have been reading crime fiction for about 40 years. But you don't need the first two to write a book review. I'm an amateur, but an amateur who knows what she likes to read, and one who can usually pick a good book from a bad one.
Q: Could I write a review?
A: Yes, you could. But you need to be prepared to do more than just copy the book's blurb and says "I liked it". Initially I found writing the first 2 paragraphs, introducing the story, incredibly hard to do. It always seemed that the original blurb had said it all. That's why often my "blurb" takes a very different tack. I start with an entirely different view of the book. Then you need to think about what you liked about the book (or didn't like). I find the process of giving the book a rating helps clarify my ideas too and for me it is an indispensible part of the process.
Q: How long does my review need to be?
A: My reviews are usually about 500 words. I don't think people want a review they have to struggle through.They basically want to know whether they will enjoy the book or not.