I Am Not On Your Payroll (Time for An Ajooba Rant)

I am ‘out here’ in the virtual world because I enjoy reading and don’t mind donating my time to type a line or two about books I have read and liked. I am thankful for the review requests I receive, overwhelmed by their frequency and I have discovered great authors and people, who share my passion for a well told story. My ire is in no way aimed at these lovely authors, who have given me joy and virtual friendship on occasion.

However, I feel from time to time the need to remind myself, and others apparently, that I am not contracted, employed or obligated to provide a favourable opinion about any book, on demand. When I read a book I am not looking to find fault. I really want to enjoy a book I choose to read. It would be an awful waste of precious time otherwise. However, if I don’t enjoy it I simply say it’s not a book for me and I don’t blog about it.

Before I go any further with this blog post I feel its only fair to apologise for having a rant. I don’t do it often and part of me wants to acquiesce that it’s fine to be berated and bullied via email, by absolute strangers. However, the more rational part of me, begs to differ. I avoid talking politics and ranting because I hear it’s a huge turn off and I detest spreading negativity, but on this occasion I can barely keep from including expletives in my, ultimately watered down, diatribe.

Between courteous and sometimes funny (genuinely ha ha) book review requests, I have had a spate of emails with various demands, I would go as far as saying are outrageously presumptuous, in their wording. (I’m hitting the hard stuff now.)

From demanding (not requesting or proposing) when I will read a book sent to me, (when sending a book does NOT automatically mean it will appeal to me and make my reading list, or if it does that it will necessarily get a review) to restructuring my star rating system to suit the requirements of aspiring authors, I wonder if the fact I am not employed by the author has ceased to be evident.

The term is review REQUESTS. NOT review demands. I am not a free proofreader, publicist or editor, nor do I aspire to be any of the above. I simply do not desire nor am I qualified for those roles. Unfortunately, I am not a supernatural being who has discovered a way to cheat time, my time is also limited and valuable to me. No, I am a reader, albeit a prolific one, who is willing to write a succinct review of books that I enjoy so that it may appeal to other mere mortal readers (the majority of the people out there you hope will buy your book), who just want to get on with reading books, not lengthy reviews about how well a book is constructed. There are many avenues to explore the theory of creative writing and marketing books, but it’s not what I do here.

As a person with complete autonomy, I have come to take it for granted that I have freedom to make choices and deign to have my own preferences in terms of what I enjoy and what I don’t, for which I make no apology. Us, mere readers are pathetically difficult that way. (Sarcasm. I’ve allowed myself to be reduced to sarcasm.)

Where I stand as a willing reviewer is clearly stated on my Guidelines For Submitting Books For Review To Ajoobacats Blog page. If you can’t be bothered or have no time to read this page, then I am not the reviewer for you. Likewise if you read it and find it objectionable, then I am not the reviewer for you. If you fail to understand I cannot respond to every author who submits a book to me or read every book requiring a review and continue to live my life and to blog regularly (blogging is a process in itself, which takes commitment and time), then I am not the reviewer for you.

Fairies and elves don’t write these posts whilst I’m sleeping, nor do they engage in social media and with other bloggers/readers while I sit here twiddling my thumbs not reading your book. If the fact I’m not a professor of literature at Oxford or Cambridge (few readers are) makes my time or opinion as a reader less important or valid to you respectively, then I am not the reviewer for you. If my reviews have to read a certain way, as governed by your opinion, then I am not the reviewer for you. If you think contact with you elevates me to a superior social or intellectual class, then I am not the reviewer for you. If my reviews are too critical, then I am not the reviewer for you. If you only accept five/four star reviews, then I am not the reviewer for you.

If making my annual top ten list is not supposed to be challenging to a writer of your calibre, then I am not the reviewer for you. If after reading over 200 books a year I am not reading fast enough for your liking, then I am not the reviewer for you. If I am not allowed to have an opinion that differs from your own, about your writing, then I am not the reviewer for you. If I am not the reviewer for you, it’s not the end of the road there are multitudes of other book reviewers out here, but I seriously doubt many, if any, would tolerate authors demanding four or five star reviews, and if they do, shame on them for not being true to themselves.

Let me say the vast majority of authors and publicists who contact me are professional, courteous, friendly, approachable, exuding humility and a pleasure to communicate with, but there’s only so much entitlement, brashness, arrogance and surliness I can take from multiple fronts (I changed a single swear word into two words here) and its taken three years to reach my limit, or is it just now I’m noticing the brusque manner of some of my review ‘requests’?

This is my blog and I alone control content, if a book has been awarded 3 or 3.5 stars, if I choose to, I may publish that review here despite mostly publishing reviews I award 4 stars and above. It’s my choice. Whatever has finally stuck in my craw, I cannot excuse poor manners when, essentially, you are asking me for a favour by sending me details of your book. I take my obligation to read any book I accept seriously. Rudeness annoys me but it also induces me to simply swipe to the left and delete your email, attachments included.

My rant is not aimed at one person but a wave of unscrupulous authors who want promotion, but not any genuine feedback or reaction to their book. Please be assured if you don’t submit your book for review, I am in no danger of running out of reading material. I have decades of reading for pleasure on my own terms, both behind and ahead of me (by the Grace of God), with or without your review request. There may be readers/reviewers out there who are willing to be solicited to produce a review to your liking, for financial gain, but I am not one of them. My time, integrity and opinion are not for sale nor up for any type of barter. Only my own humble and honest opinion of a book will ever be posted on my blog, which you are free to disregard at your discretion.

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61 thoughts on “I Am Not On Your Payroll (Time for An Ajooba Rant)

  1. It is a sad thing when the reviewing experience is stained by a few unscrupulous and demanding beings. Good for you to stand up for yourself! Your time, your blog, your rules πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you and it is a minority, thankfully, who behave badly. I tried keeping these feelings to myself, but the emotions festered and bubbled up each time I got demanding email, until the dam broke.

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  2. Poor manners and downright rudeness really do boil my blood. If you are good enough to offer up your time freely, then people should be gracious and civil. These people obviously forget that needing to work/eat/sleep are factors in your life. You are a much better person than I am for I tolerate rudeness and incivility very poorly and would have succinctly told these rude people where to go.x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been treated in such a way. I think you do a wonderful job in giving up your free time to review books. I hope I speak on behalf of the majority of authors when I say that we appreciate what you do. It helps authors as well as readers who want to discover new books. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, I absolutely love reading and singing the praises of books I think are marvellous. It’s not work, it doesn’t feel like a chore, but it’s somewhat diminished when I feel pressured into writing something I do not feel.

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  4. Hear, hear!! Very well said and brilliantly written Babus – you have my total support and respect and I’m so pleased you have had this rant – it is not the first one I have seen recently from book reviewers and these things need to be said. You do a tremendous job and are endlessly supportive and every time you receive anything in anyway unpleasant from an author in the future I want you to respond by merely pointing them in the direction of this post. Have a good day! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Georgia. Although this post has made me feel better, albeit with a side of guilt for ranting, I think those who need to read and reflect unfortunately won’t be reading this and if they are, I doubt their insight is up to par to recognise bad behaviour in themselves. However, I will endeavour to stick to my guns.

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  5. I like the way you’ve said this. I read voraciously also, but do very few book reviews, because of my own writing. However, when I review a book, it is my called. I don’t tolerate authors with poor manners who act like selfish children wanting what everyone else has.
    Shalom,
    Patricia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just found your post and commented. It’s awful to hear you’ve had a similar experience but I’m sorry to say I’m not surprised. There’s a seedy underside to reading and reviewing that seeps through from time to time.

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  6. Great post. It says on my blog that I’m not taking review requests right now, but I still get emails from authors every day. Some authors say in their emails that I’m not allowed to write a review that has anything negative in it at all. Doing that would make me feel like I’m lying. If I don’t like something about a book, I want to be able to say that I didn’t like it. I would never accept a review request from an author who demands that I review a book a certain way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is not at all surprising at all to me that an author would contact you without reading any part of your blog. I’ve had the dubious ‘I must send a copy of the review before I publish it’ blah too. Those requests get stored in a file called Trash. It’s a bizarre situation to give your time and effort to read and review for it only to be an audition for what some deluded author wants you to say.

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  7. Well said, and I hope you feel better! I hope all the egotistical oafs who make demands and expect you to spend your valuable time praising and giving in depth literary critiques for their mediocre books soon give up and find other hobbies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, it’s certainly a weight off my mind to get it down in words. I wasn’t expecting the support I have had for this post, even though people around me kept reassuring me I had a reason to be miffed. I’m sure I have praised what some readers would consider mediocre books on my blog, but when it comes to book the magic is in the mind of the reader, the book just unlocks it. We all need different keys.

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  8. Well said from beginning to end. Thank you for sharing, frustration and all. My neck is a little sore from nodding along as I read. Simple courtesy and respect for boundaries are reasonable expectations, and you owe no one an apology for sticking to your principles. (Also, I’m filing the points away for future reference; I have a stated “no requests” policy since I only do reviews when I feel moved to write one, but clearly some rude people don’t care.)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m new to reviewing books on a blog, but I’ve heard of this sort of thing going on. I imagine it must be very disheartening to have to deal with. Kudos to you for writing about this in a way that vents your frustrations without resorting to sounding nasty about it. I only hope I can be as gracious, if put in the same situation.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I get paid by my ministry to review books, not by authors or publishers. The fact that I’m doing it professionally doesn’t insulate me from over-the-top responses from some of the authors. “What?? You gave me a bad review? How dare you! Don’t know know that writing that book was part of my therapy??? What do you mean, trying to undermine my therapy?” Like I’m some kind of psychic who can just naturally tell when someone has written a book as part of her psychotherapy…

        And yes, that was a true example. That author was so mad, she phoned my editor and demanded that I be ordered to rewrite my review of her book to make it a positive review.

        You can’t make up this stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Lord, Lee! I can imagine the scenario with no difficulty. I get asked quite a lot to review mental health books and this is why I say no. It’s never just a book like a literary book, no it’s much much more, it’s like they have presented their first born to you and there is nothing you can say that won’t anger them. You basically become an ersatz therapist. Over a year ago I was invited by an author to review books for a different blog. I was coached on how to write a suitable review for them, which I took in my stride as I am not trained in literature post-school. Using their guidelines I wrote reviews for books, which no one else in the group seemed to want to read. I got feedback that my review was not commercial enough, that they were in the business of marketing books. It was news to me as the reviews I have written here are unbiased and marketing is not part of my agenda. I make zilch from my blog. In fact, it costs me to keep it going. I was terribly upset when the review I wrote for last book I read for them came back with a school report telling me how carp I was. At the time I blamed myself for being too stupid and gauche to write a decent review and I cried. I was told to forget the review, they’d allocate the book to someone else, who was willing to big it up. I subsequently no longer review for that conglomerate, but it took months of group therapy to see where I wasn’t at fault regarding these events and hence my rant.

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  10. Agree with this wholeheartedly. Another 2 gripes: from an author’s point of view: people who’ve started following me then asking me to review their books BECAUSE I am an author. Like I have all the time in the world, and (not you) people who say they are going to post a review but then don’t – can’t ask them, and sadly, the number does help one’s visibility on Amazon. ooh..and then there’s the *fake* review………a flelow writer in the same genre as me has 400 reviews….and is barely visible on any social media platform…don’t get me started…can I have a tiny soapbox and stand next to you…hahahaha

    Liked by 1 person

    • By all means share mine! I feel the expectation of a review can be ambiguous. For example I get a lot of books e-mailed to me, where authors, who obviously haven’t read my guidelines, expect a review because they sent me the book. No regard at all for the sheer impracticality that I cannot read every book sent. Then I get emails asking when are you going to publish your review of my book? Again I feel awful because I have passed on the book because it isn’t a genre I read or it just doesn’t appeal to my taste. I am not a machine, I am only human and no matter how many books a year I read it will never be enough to please everyone. The fake review thing is obvious to spot a mile away and I’m glad Amazon is doing more to clamp down, but I am too cynical to believe this dubious market will cease to exist.

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      • When people have no manners, they don’t deserve courtesy. I know that’s a minority view, but I believe that the stress upon the aggrieved party is an injustice and that s/he has every right to tell such a person to pound sand. I can, however, explain why some writers behave this way, and plan to do in an upcoming post.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for the laugh this morning! πŸ˜€
    I just finished writing up my Weekly Happy Post and scheduling it and was in the process of writing my weekly list of book reviews which hit my inbox when I came across your rant which does not read like a rant. It reads more like a guide to how to stay on Ajoobacat’s good side, lol.
    I came to the conclusion long ago that people, as a whole, are stupid. There are bright stars and twinkling lights amongst the stupidity and it’s those stars and lights I choose to associate with.
    Not everyone is stupid, but these days it seems like stupidity is winning out over the bright stars and twinkling lights *sigh*.
    I enjoy reading whatever you send my way, even though I don’t always respond, so keep ’em coming!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Although all the examples mentioned have happened in association with book review requests. I still think the stars outnumber the ones that irritate, but only when I push back every now and then.

      Like

      • Oh, I know πŸ™‚
        When I am on the clock they still seem to think I’m their bitch! What they don’t realize is that I may be able to do what they want, but that doesn’t mean others will; if I do it then they will expect everyone else to as well.
        I have to hold myself back a lot of the time for two reasons.
        1. I know my own limits and they don’t.
        2. They haven’t given me a raise in more than 15 years, if they expect more than they are currently getting, they better put up or shut up!

        Like

  12. Well said Ajoobacats. How dare these few authors/publishers to make demands on you when you’re doing THEM the favor of reading and reviewing their books. I hope the offenders read your post and take heed to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. So I was just reading along, and continuing to read along, and thinking mainly one thing: give ’em hell! Back when book reviewing was more a part of my world, and even now at times, I get some of the absolute dumbest and rudest requests. You are completely right to reject this pressure, and you’re giving them more courtesy than they deserve.

    You are far kinder than me. At the first hint of discourtesy or snippiness, I tell them that if they give me a reason, I’m perfectly capable of buying my own copy and then leaving a review they really won’t like, including all the details of their nag-a-thon. I don’t get any fundamental pleasure leaving a review that would melt the plastic encasing their screen–unless it’s to give them a consequence for being pinheaded.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had only one instance where I was tempted to buy the book and give a no-holes-barred-review and that was for the author, who was riding the red carpet of exhilaration of having her book praised by a literature professor. She requested a book review then declined to send me the book as one of my reviews didn’t sound like a four star review. As far as I know there is no profoma or template for four or five stars and my honesty was obviously evoking feelings of self-doubt not even a literature pelican assuage. I decided against reading her book as my review list was sitting at 40 books and life is too short to be disappointed by the thing you love doing the most.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: New Author Syndrome | The 'Lancer

  15. Thank you!!!! This needed to be said! I, too, have experienced an influx of contact from authors with an overwhelming sense of entitlement making demands lately. I don’t negotiate with terrorists!!!

    Like

  16. How do you manage it if you don’t like a book? So far I usually post about it anyway but sometimes I think I’d rather stick by the if you have nothing nice to say say nothing at all… Do you message the publisher?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t blog about a book I award less than 3 stars. If its a Netgalley ARC I do write a review stating what didn’t work for me. I am not going to like every book I read, but just because I don’t like it, it does not mean someone else won’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Amen! I often get requests from authors who clearly haven’t taken the time to look around my site and aren’t familiar with the kinds of books I review. The idea that reviewers are in some way obligated to publish favourable reviews is frankly ridiculous. I’d never start reading a book I wasn’t genuinely excited about, but if it turns out to be disappointing, I want to discuss that. I’m aware that other readers may not necessarily agree with my opinions, so I aim to offer critical insight, rather than slamming a book, and I try to be respectful in the way I go about it. That said, I’m not being paid to market any of the books I read, and if I owe loyalty to anyone, it’s my readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. We all need to let out some steam here and there. That’s the best proof that you’re not an immortal fairy with minions doing your business haha. Do what you gotta do and don’t let them push you around. If they want long reviews they can read my blog. πŸ™‚ Haha I’m kidding (sort of). But yeah your reviews, your rules. Though I think the huge saturation of literature we have today could be responsible. Everybody’s desperate to have a good word to give them just the slightest bump.

    Also thanks for the likes! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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