14 April 2009

Book Reviews: My Policy and Guidelines

Last updated 25 July 2011

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.
Smik's Reviews

I have been storing reviews on MYSTERIES IN PARADISE since the beginning of 2008 and now have  organised indexes of my reviews.


    If you follow the RSS feed for the site, you will get an alert whenever I change any one of those pages.

    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.
    The structure of the 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.
    Other Q & A

    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.

    26 comments:

    Molly said...

    I read Cathy's "Scene of the Blog" this morning and just loved seeing your organized blogging space!

    I have learned so much about reviewer policy by reading this post! I think I need to develop one myself and I will probably use portions of this as a model - if you don't mind.

    Mack said...

    Excellent post, Kerrie. Thanks for consolidating your book reviewing policy and review writing guidelines in one post. IU find them quite helpful.

    On an unrelated subject, do you have a cockatoo in your house? Your profile photo reminded me to ask as I spent the past weekend at a B&B where I got to interact with one. Beautiful birds and I quite enjoyed having Tito the cockatoo perched on my arm.

    Lenore said...

    Wow - this is really comprehensive. I'm going to update my review policy again soon.

    Kerrie said...

    Molly, I've come across some good sets of guidelines on other people's blogs. I had a problem in finding some of them when I was writing this post. I'm glad though it is useful to you

    Kerrie said...

    Not sure why I chose the white cockatoo Mack. We used to have a glah as a pet. Big suplur crested cokatoos roost and screech in the gum tree in our front yard though

    Kerrie said...

    thanks for dropping by Lenore. I hope my ideas got you thinking

    SariJ said...

    This post has been a big help to me. Wow, this is perfect timing too. I just read a book I did not like and was unsure if I should have reviewed it or not. I am new to reviewing so I have a lot of questions. You covered most of them in a well thought out format.
    Thank you

    Maree said...

    Very insightful _ thanks for sharing.
    Happy Weekly Geeks :)

    "Confuzzled" Shannon said...

    Wow 500 words sounds like a lot but it doesn't look that bad. I don't know how long mine are. I have been trying to do them better lately and longer.

    Beach Weddings said...

    I am in my teens and want to write book reviews on recent books I've read however I can't find a website where I can post my reviews. I've tried amazon however it requires you to have an account. Any suggestions?

    Kerrie said...

    Why don't you just create a blog and post your own reviews there?

    Brenda said...

    I understand that you prefer crime stories, but would you review a YA fantasy novel?

    Kerrie said...

    Hello Brenda, thanks for the offer, but I'll decline that thnaks. There really wouldn't be any point as I wouldn't enjoy it. Perhaps you could talk to my BBAW Interview Swap partner The Story Siren

    Angela said...

    Kerrie, thank you so much for leaving a link to this post on my blog. This is one of the most detailed, well thought out review policies I've read and it has given me some valuable insight into the types of questions I should address when I get around to writing my review policy.

    RunSeeker said...

    I am very impressed with the number and quality of the reviews you have done in 2011 alone. I believe my debut novel fits very well with your tastes and I would be very pleased to have you do a review. But I could not find any reference on your Policies and Guidelines page as to how that could be accomplished.
    Thank you
    Michael Selmer

    Kerrie said...

    Michael, use the Kontactr in the right hand margin to email me

    Goddess Fish Promotions said...

    We would love to work with you on our Thriller/Mystery/Suspense virtual book tours (we have a few running now), but I couldn't find an email address to contact you with more information.

    If you'll email us at goddesfish@gmail.com, we'd love to chat. Thanks!

    Alexander Galant said...

    Hi Kerrie,

    I've read through your Review Policy but cannot find and e-mail address to contact you regarding my novel DEPTH OF DECEPTION (A Titanic Murder Mystery) for review consideration.

    I can be reached through the site: http://www.depthofdeception.com/

    With thanks,
    Alexander Galant

    Chris Merlo said...

    Hello Kerrie,
    I have a debut crime/thriller novel I wrote I think you might like, called Modern Suburbia. Please visit my blog! chrismerlo.blogspot.com where you'll find lots of info. Thanks!
    Chris

    Barbara Hicks said...

    Do you do blog tours? also how do I submit a review request? The book is COLD by Stella Cameron and it is a mystery.

    Kerrie said...

    Thanks for dropping by Barbara. No I don't do blog tours. I've noted your reference to COLD by Stella Cameron

    Laurence O'Bryan said...

    Your site is very useful. My new novel from Harper Collins, The Manhattan Puzzle, is out Oct 10. Please email me your address at lpobryan@gmail.com if I can send you a copy.

    islandeditions said...

    Kerrie, I discovered your blog through Margot Kinberg's blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, in which yours was linked. Thank you for reviewing mysteries and crime fiction. You're providing a valuable service to readers. I will subscribe and share your blog.

    Susan Toy
    http://islandeditions.wordpress.com/

    Tim Symonds said...

    Just saw this (Australian) review of my novel 'the Bulgarian Codex' - warms a chap's heart!

    Book Review by Xanthe Mallett
    (2012) J. JURIS 587
    University of New England
    Armidale, Australia

    www.jurisprudence.com.au/juris16/mallett.pdf

    Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Bulgarian Codex
    By Tim Symonds


    A new Sherlock Holmes novel has a lot to live up to. And frankly, I was
    not hopeful for this offering. As an avid Arthur Conan Doyle – and Holmes
    – fan, I was sceptical that anyone could match Conan Doyle’s intellect
    whilst matching his fast-paced and gripping style. I was wrong. Symonds'
    story could be described as a gripping yarn which captured the essence of
    both Holmes and Watson very well.

    The story in short: Holmes and his faithful sidekick Watson are contacted by the
    mysterious and duplicitous Prince Regnant of Bulgaria, following the apparent theft
    of an ancient and sacred manuscript. Holmes is tasked with finding the
    manuscript, and by extension preventing the outbreak of War. The lives of millions are in his
    hands.

    So, plot set, the trusty duo set off for Bulgaria, travelling on the Orient Express through beautifully
    described landscapes. As one would expect, the story is not as simple as it at
    first appears, and what follows is a tale of murder, greed, and vampires.
    There are the requisite unexpected twists and turns. A tale worthy of
    Holmes any day.

    So, although I expected to be disappointed, I was not. The language
    Tim Symonds employs is reminiscent of Conan Doyle, and really transports the
    reader on the journey. If I were to offer some small criticism, it would be
    that it feels as if the author is trying too hard to link the story to the earlier
    texts. But that would be all. And by halfway through this feeling is
    forgotten, as is the fact that this is not one of Conan Doyle’s original
    offerings – so good is the dialogue and storytelling.

    A good test for me is, when you turn the last page, how do you feel? Glad
    or disappointed? I was definitely disappointed, as I was enjoying it so much
    I didn’t want it to end.

    David Graham said...

    Hi Kerrie,

    I wondered if you would consider reviewing my debut novel 'Incitement'.

    Just as background I entered a competition I heard being announced on The John Murray Show one of the flagship programs on our national (Ireland) radio station and run in conjunction with the RTE Guide our biggest selling weekly magazine back in May. I had written the book a few years ago and had no expectations when entering. I duly forgot about it then to my surprise I won from over 500 entrants. The book is available from book shops in Ireland and is available on Amazon as a physical and ebook, its also available as an ebook on the other main retailers.

    I will cut and paste the book blurb under my signature below to help you get an idea of the story.

    I would be more than happy to send you a physical copy of the book or .mobi if you were happy to review it.

    I realise you must be inundated with requests but if you had the time to review it I would be extremely grateful. If you wanted to contact me via email, it is davidangraham@gmail.com

    regards
    David Graham


    A bloody massacre at a Mexican heroin refinery; a Miami-bound freight ship hijacked for its cargo of illegal narcotics; the ruthless assassination of a Kosovar drug lord – a war has erupted between two drugs superpowers.


    As DEA Agent Diane Mesi investigates she becomes convinced that the conflict is being orchestrated by an unknown third party. But she is marginalised by her colleagues and her judgement is challenged at every turn. Only if she can expose the truth will she be able to stop the violence and save her career.


    Michael Larsen is an ex-soldier and hired mercenary who has been contracted to fuel the conflict at every opportunity until it destroys both sides. As he battles his own demons, he hopes that by directing the violence he will attain some measure of redemption.


    But neither Mesi nor Larsen know the full extent of the forces at play or of what is truly at stake. As they each pursue their own resolution, the violence escalates and they become increasingly isolated and vulnerable to the dangers that stalk them.

    Sami Jo said...

    Hi Kerrie!

    I have a few crime fiction novels I think you would enjoy!

    Would you please shoot me an e-mail at Samantha@JKSCommunications.com if you might be interested?

    Thanks so much, Kerrie!
    Sami

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