When I started this blog, it was just me and a stack of books I loved, happily typing away. It was nice, of course, if anyone read my reviews and thought, “That sounds like a book for me!” But I bought every book myself, without any expectation of anyone giving me free books! For crying out loud– free books??? Now, some lovely people do that, so I thought I should put this up here both as a guide to readers for the sake of transparency, and to book-makers-who-want-reviews as a clear statement up front.
So: This page is to be a guide to authors/illustrators and publishers about my stance on review copies. It also explains to readers where my books come from and how it has an effect on my reviews (tl;dr: it doesn’t change my reviews one bit).
Background: My rules for reviewing have always been the same, and I stand by every review. I do not review a book I don’t love. It’s not as fun to create a space of analysis rather than enthusiasm, honestly, and while there’s enormous value in critical analysis– I’m trained as an academic, I’ve done that for years, so I really do know that– I keep this as a space for joy and pleasure. I like to think people come here thinking, “What can I read to help me smile or grow or think?” and walk away with a list in hand. So, what I’m saying is that I’m incredibly picky! It might be a silly book or a serious book– but I write about a very, very small number of the books I read. Too small. I wish I had time for more!
For Readers: I will always note when a book comes to me as a free review copy. That said, as you’ll find if you read on, nine times out of ten the review copy comes to me by way of a publisher saying, “OK, tell me what you like then!” So I do the choosing, and then narrow down– just as I would in a book shop. In fact, the result is that this encourages me to step out of my comfort zone a little, or you get a review pre-publication. In short: better for you! More variety, more chance to stretch myself, but I’m still picky as all get out.
For Publishers: I’ve had a few publishers contact me, which is wonderful (I do love publishers– they work so hard on getting these books out– and I’m writing this during covid, at which point, good Lord, I bow to you all!), and to them I say the same thing you’re getting over and over on this page: a review copy does not guarantee a review. I’m just very picky, and also busy. Remarkably, some of you wonderful folks still offer to send me books! Here’s the deal about that: I’m super picky, and I prefer to be offered to choose my books, but review copies get considered first when I’m thinking about what to review. So, why do I pick and choose? Why not say to send what you like? This allows me to stretch! I may very well have pre-ordered a book by a favourite author, or be planning to. I don’t want you to waste a review copy if I’m already getting it– unless you think a pre-publication review would be nice, in which case, please do. But I really love to be challenged. Give me the chance at something a step out of my usual zone? Great! That would be a great review for you and a lovely chance for me to stretch my mind a bit. Long story short: I love to get review copies from publishers, love to choose or discuss them, and, further, since I feel an obligation to you, review copies automatically go to the top of my mental list when I think ahead to what I plan to review. If you wish to contact me, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Authors: While I really, really do love to hear from you and I appreciate you so very much— because of that, I do encourage you to put me in touch with your agent or publicist regarding reviews, just because I don’t want you or me to feel bad if I don’t write a review. Long version: I’ve had lovely authors write to my over the years offering review copies and I always caution them that while I’m very happy to get books, it’s not a guarantee of a review– partly because I may not love the book (see above re: very, very picky), but also because it’s only me here and I don’t like to write a review thoughtlessly. So if a review doesn’t go up, it may just be that I was busy or simply couldn’t think of something interesting to say beyond, “Nice book!” and that’s not what I do here. And I always feel bad if an author sends a book directly and I don’t wish to or don’t manage to get a review up: every author works hard on their book and it’s their baby! If I don’t review, I cringe a little– folks: I promise I appreciate your immense effort! It’s just I’m only one person. If you wish to contact me, please email: email@example.com.