In the blogosphere, I’m relatively small potatoes. I blog and review books as a hobby (and because my husband wanted to learn WordPress). Nevertheless, this hobby has brought me a few unexpected dilemmas.
Many independent writers follow me and I follow them in return. I have a lot of respect for anyone who succeeds in writing a book. Not only is it something I hope to do someday, but it is also a great deal of hard work in a very competitive field. An excellent example of independent writing and marketing is Switched by Amanda Hocking and the books that followed it in the trilogy. Amanda has gone from independent e-book writer with a huge following to paperback writer for St. Martin’s Griffin, an even larger following, and excellent reviews for her follow up series, Watersong. It was a privilege to be among the first to review Switched in its paperback form.
Then there is the downside. I find it difficult to turn down review requests. I know how important these are to fledgling writers and am honored to be asked. The trouble is that I am always very far behind, go months without reading a book strictly for the pleasure of it, and encounter some sensitive and downright dishonest people. I don’t always like the books, so I’m honest but try to be kind. Still negative reviews are hard to write and make me feel mean. I’ve also had to deal with people who wrote about “their” books, but I came to find out they were stealing the works from other writers. That put me in the very uncomfortable position of promoting a plagiarist. It all got sorted in the end, but I felt taken advantage of to be sure. Still some bloggers demonized me for leaving the guest post on my blog. I felt I had to in order to shine a light on this dishonest “writer.” Not everyone agreed with my stance however. Some thought I should’ve removed it completely, but that would have been like it never happened and the comments would have been lost as well.
Most of my experiences are positive though. I guess that’s why I keep doing it. Most writers are nice; they accept constructive criticism when I give it, and often comment on the post. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have a career if not for writers. I respect them (even the ones who I think need more work), and I enjoy chatting with them on Twitter. Readers and writers are as intertwined as the strands of a DNA molecule. Neither can exist without the other.
For anyone considering asking me for a review, here are a few facts that you need to know:
- I’ve been a librarian for 12 years, 8 of those as a Children’s Librarian.
- I majored in English in college and have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science, so I know books and writing intimately.
- I’m honest in my reviews. If I don’t like a book, I say so though I try to do so gently.
- Don’t ask me for a review unless you want an honest review with constructive criticism. If you aren’t ready for it, don’t request it. The last thing I want to do is crush your dream. And frankly, even if I give you one star out of five (something I’ve only done once), you need to remember that I’m just one reviewer among many.
- Finally, if all you want is publicity and not a review, consider doing a guest post and giveaway. It saves me time and gives you what you really want. Just keep in mind the conservative nature of my blog when writing a guest post. I’ll turn it down if I think it might be offensive to my readers.
The bottom line is that I genuinely want to support writers, but I want to be treated with respect just as much as you do. I don’t get paid for my reviews. I generally receive a free copy and that’s it. For someone who already owns over 1500 books (not counting my Kindle and Nook libraries) this is not really reward enough for the amount of work that I put in (although I do appreciate it). The true reward comes when I’m able to support honest, hard-working authors trying to live the dream.
Be Groovy and Write On!