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May 19, 2010

Blogging Pitfalls... oh and what about that Policy?

I noticed this week that I have posted 29 reviews on The Burton Review this year. That jives with a previous calculation of mine that the average amount of time it has taken me to read and review a book is just a bit less than 5 days. I love it when I find myself one helluva awesome book that keeps me reading throughout the night and pushes me ahead of my reading schedule. Those are fantastic happy joy joy books for me (The Kitchen House, 31 Bond Street, Girl In Translation) that I won't hesitate to recommend to any reader.

When I begin a book, I get disappointed if I am not invested in the happenings of the story by at least page thirty (The Brothers of Gwynedd- part one). Sometimes, I can read a book and be interested enough to know I will complete the book, but I know it will not be stellar (The Founding). Other times, I will begin a book and not really know where it is going to take me, and then eventually it suddenly swoops me into another time and totally inspires me. (By Fire, By Water).

Sometimes, life is just too insane to be able to focus on a book. I know the normal saying goes for readers, When Life Gets Tough, Get a Book. But it really has to be the right type of book for me, even if I do normally enjoy in-depth historicals, it just may be time to take a break and read a general fiction novel to help lighten my spirit. It is hard for any book blogger in good faith to just put a book away and say.. eh.. not good enough.. I'll check it out another day. The catch of being a book blogger is that you normally have a schedule of when a publisher/publicist/author wants you to post a review. But when I have the proverbial gavel hanging over my head that I must review this and that right now regardless of what your life is handing to you, well that just takes all the fun out of it.

Doesn't it?

And then.. the millions of review requests I receive daily in my virtual mailbox. Okay, maybe just several emails a day. From authors, publicists etc. I do realize that 90% of those that email me have never peeked at my blog before and therefore would not know me and my tastes. I am one of those that are on the mass email marketing lists but the quantity of the emails have expanded like a balloon. And it's ready to get popped. Because if it is someone who is pitching to me with a preface of  "I LOVE YOUR BLOG!" and then proceeds to tell me that they have a vampire story or a children's novel for me to review.. well, I get a little ticked off. They clearly have not read my blog that they LOVE SO MUCH. So what to do about that?

Once upon a time, I read a book review etiquette type internet article that scoffed at a book blogger who asked when would you like me to post this review? This article ran about the same time that every one was realizing that book blogging was becoming a large habit with new book blogs being created by the minute. This much better person who would never have called themselves something as silly as a blogger but would have called themselves a fancier title such as "literary critic" stated that no one ever is supposed to ask that one question of when to review a book. You review the book on your schedule, they said. You do this for free. I was actually glad to read that.

cough cough.

Well, that is not reality, as I have come to notice a year after this book blogging. If an author wants you to review a book, and you accept it, they would expect a review within a fair amount of time, within six months seems good enough for me, unless prior arrangements are specifically made where they actually permit you to take your time. But then you have most publicists who conduct the virtual blog tours. And of course you are then required to post a review on your assigned date. And then you snowball it into a hundred books landing on your doorstep a week and oooopppps you forgot that you don't read that fast. Don't fall into that pitfall! Remember to pace yourself. Now that I've done this for awhile, I can look at my 'stats'; as mentioned, it can be a five day turn around. So if you have 20 more books on your stack that you must review, that's another 100 days. I would think at this point you need to exercise restraint on the book requesting/accepting.

I do have a review policy. I think there was a flurry of activity some time last year which was similar to a viral blogger wave where everyone decided it was prudent to post a review policy. I was among them. "Oh, yes!" I said when I jumped on the band wagon. We book bloggers are indeed important enough to post limits, warnings, and restrictions and to put them on our Review Policy. Loud and Clear for All to See.

Flash forward a year later. Who reads the policy? Anyone? Echo...echo.. echo....

And, yes. I do have the policy linked on three different spots on my site. Just in case they miss the button up top that says POLICY. But, the flip side is, many may HAVE read my policy, and said ewww my book is not for her, and therefore never emailed me in the first place. So maybe the system does work for some. So why am I ranting? No reason. Just wondering if anyone out there feels the same.

But the moral of my own dilemma is this: JUST SAY NO. Or better yet, ignore. Just like they ignored my review policy. I find I do much better when it is I who is doing the requesting of the book rather than the accepting of a book. And don't accept a book that you can't foresee getting to very soon. The books add up, and you will get overwhelmed.

There have been issues between book bloggers and authors before as far as miscommunication on dates etc..but for the most part authors are easy to work with. Every now and then we come across issues that hopefully can be resolved, but sometimes it is hard to remember that there are people behind the monitor on both sides.

And you know what? Yes, we do this for free. We promote books for free. For the love of the book .Yes, we just might get an Advance copy of your book, and we thank you for that. And some authors are truly the awesome of the awesome and send you autographed hardcovers even after you received an ARC. So sometimes we DO enjoy the perks of the book blogger. And we feel happy joy joy again.

What I want is a tee shirt that says "BOOK BLOGGERS ARE PEOPLE, TOO".

There may be something crazy going on in our personal lives that we should not feel compelled to display all over the internet or even email the authors about if they do not get to a review on time. Cut us some slack. This is a hobby, not a job.

Oh.. and we just might have made a mistake in accepting your book to review. Now what? Do you want it back? I'll mail it back to you if would like it back. Or you can wait as patiently as you can.

What about you? What are your peeves about the book blogging "business"? Have you had a bad experience with an author that made you want to throw their book against the wall? Have you felt like you needed a blogging break at any point? How did you get yourself out of a blogging rut?

Some good advice is to find that happy medium. The point where your personal life does not interfere with the blog and the blog does not interfere with your personal life. Remember why you began your blog, and what inspired you about it. Rekindle the passion, and now that you have a bit of experience under your belt, realize what works for you and go with it.