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Discussion: What Are Your Criteria For Review Books?

What is your criteria for review books?

Criteria for Review Books

I have a question for all of you: what are your criteria for review books? By this I mean, what do you think about when an author or publisher emails you asking you to review a book? Do you care what other people have thought about it before? Do you care what age group it is for or the genre? Do you care how perfectly the requester followed your request policy? What are your criteria, and how far are you willing to bend on them?

Other People’s Opinions

I’ve often found myself going to check Goodreads and even Amazon to see what a book has been rated already. I’m not sure if I actually like myself doing this or not. Doesn’t this bias my opinion of the book? On the other hand, if the reviews are all negative, I could be saving my time or if the reviews point out things that specifically bother me, I could be saving the author money, since I know it’s not cheap to ship physical books around, and even to purchase copies of e-books. That being said, sometimes with very new books, there aren’t very many reviews up yet. I’ve run into a couple books where only the author and one or two other people have rated a book. I don’t really feel that this is a solid base to go on, but is that a reason not to review a book? No, not really, since then I could really contribute by writing a review, but it also means I’m going in completely blind to what quality this book will be. Sometimes, I’m just not sure I want to risk it, but is that really the best thing for the community?

Age Group and Genre

This one I’m sure is important to most of us as far as the criteria for review books go. If a book is outside of my genre, I’m puzzled as to why I was even sent the request in the first place, and typically ignore it. That being said, I have run into a number of books that are outside of my stated age range, which I don’t realize until I get the book, and that’s just frustrating. What’s surprising though, is that I still found I could enjoy the book, despite the fact that I probably would have turned it down if I had known it was outside of my normal criteria for review books. Does this mean that my criteria are too strict? Or just that there was an exception? However, genres have become fuzzy things these days. Some books simply don’t fit neatly into one genre or another, so a book may fit one of your genres, but not perfectly. Are you willing to give a cross-genre book a try?

Following the Policy

As bloggers we all have request policies listing our criteria for review books to some extent (and if not check out Parajunkee’s guide to setting one up), but sometimes requesters stumble in following it. Sometimes they send a request for a book you are flat out not interested in, which I assume you just ignore? Or do you respond informing them of their mistake? Sometimes they don’t include all the information you want them to, which can lead to multiple emails back and forth. This obviously takes extra time on our part, and we are already very busy people. If a requester doesn’t follow your policy, do you take the time to get the extra information you need? Or do you miss out on a book you might like because it isn’t worth it?

I’m still small enough that I don’t get too many requests for reviews over the course of a week and can pay a fair amount of attention deciding which books to read. But I’m curious what you do when you are getting more requests than you can handle. Or if you are also small and are getting the variable quality requests that you just don’t know how the book will fair. What are your criteria for review books? How do you decide which books to spend your limited reading time on?

Thanks for joining the discussion :D Remember to subscribe for weekly reviews and discussions!

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings-A

© 2012, Anya. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. The first thing I do when considering a book is decide how much time I have for Review Books, because I have other books I want to read and I also live and work on a small farm, so my reading time varies with the season.

    I have 3 prime genres that i really enjoy and if a book is really enticing outside of those genres I will consider it. The more organized the review request (like a short description of the book, links to the book on goodreads or amazon, links to author’s page, etc) the easier it is for me to decide if I am a good fit.

    What usually wins me, even if the book is a bit outside what I normally read, is a personal email from the author that shows they actually looked at my site and truly believe their book would be of interest to me.

    I’m not about hard and fast rules as that can leave you out of many good things in life.

    • That’s one of my biggest problems, is that I have a hard time prioritizing books other than review books, and then I end up only reading review books!

      I like the point about a well organized and personal email. It is nice when an author has really taken the time to make sure you would like the book. I had an author go and find a post and quote one of my posts to me, which completely sold me! But I also agree that being hard and fast about rules means that you might miss out on something you could enjoy!

      Thanks for posting! This is something I’ve been struggling with a lot lately, so I really appreciate hearing how other people decide on review books :)

  2. I have a small blog, too, but still get a strangely large amount of review requests in my inbox every week despite having taken down my review policy months ago! My problems with review books were that the authors/publishers didn’t seem to even read by review policy– they just read my name off a blog database and emailed me, which is why I still get requests, I guess. If a single author had quoted one of my posts to me like one did to you, or seemed to be at all familiar with my blog, then maybe I would have a more positive view of indie authors and would still be accepting books for review. Another problem was that a lot of the books I received weren’t enjoyable– reviewing them started to feel like a chore, and reading time is too precious to not read what you want to read.

    Interesting post. I remember when this was a huge dilemma for me, as I was stressing out over which books to accept, how to turn authors down, etc– reviewing is definitely both an advantage and a challenge of book blogging.

    • I completely agree with this sentiment as well. I’ve run into a couple of times when reading has started to feel like a chore and have had to stop myself and said “Whoa whoa whoa, this is for fun Anya, remember that” ;-). I’ve mostly been able to solve that by putting in my review policy that I will review books in my own sweet time and if they need it by a certain date, they better darn well tell me, haha. But yes, a lot of books that we get at this stage just aren’t that well written, which is unfortunate, but I’ve found that there is usually something in them that is still worthwhile…. And if not, then I don’t finish them, which I’ll be posting about next weekend :D.

  3. For me if I see only five reviews and one of them is the author themselves I am usually cynical. If I am requested to review a book I will look at the description and my to be read pile..and decide if I a) have enough interest and b) enough time. I will just send back a nice note saying thank you for thinking of me but I have too much on plate at the moment if I feel I don’t have time/interest.
    I am finding more and more than it is hard to properly rate a book..Sometimes for me I rate something a 4 but some of those are I enjoyed it, some of them are I really enjoyed. It’s easy with 5 star but with a 3 or 4 I find it sometimes a fine line between them. I find I end up giving a lot of 4 stars lately in that there is enjoyment I found in this book but I didn’t love it etc.

    • I worry though that if everyone decides not to review a book that doesn’t have a lot of reviews yet, then new authors won’t be able to gain ground ya know? I mean, someone has to be the first to give them a chance. I like having the chance to read excerpts, since if I’m not hooked by that, then it isn’t happening.

      I know a lot of people have stopped or never started doing star reviews for that same reason. Some people do images like “heroine” and “magic” and “awesome villain” and that sort of thing to give a better idea of the strengths of the book visually. I still find that I can decide on a star rating, but maybe that will change for me in the future :)

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