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.