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some thoughts on reviewing

It’s around 1:00 in the morning here at the Crimespree world headquarters and I’m awake. Not a surprise to anyone who knows me. I don’t sleep much. I just finished some work on our March/April issue of Crimespree and thought I would stroll around the internet for a bit as I am wont to do before going to bed to read for a few hours.

I ran across something on MySpace that disturbs me. I only check our MySpace pages once a month or so, as I don’t really beleive it’s worth putting a ton of effort into it. I do get a strange joy of saying Yea or Nay to people requesting freindship. It was during one of the sessions that I came across a ppage for a publicity firm. They offer all sorts of packages to authors who might need help. I won’t go into all of this but instead jump to the point.

They have on staff reviewers who will for a fee review any book sent to them. Different fee rates for different levels of review. The deluxe package includes tear sheet ready pdfs. This really bothers me for a number of reasons.

First, no one should pay for a review. It automatically is tainted isn’t it? I won’t get into ethics here really, if a reviewer excepts a gin and tonic from an author they really are not compromising themselves, and any author with any sense at all knows that a cocktail won’t buy a good review. What I’m talking about is using paypal or writing a check to someone to read your book and review it. The reviews from this frim go on Barnes and Noble and other public forums. Well, anyone who reads Amazon reviews has an idea of the value of the reviews there, so “nuff said. The reviews also go up on a dedicated website and blog that the company runs.
My problem with all this is that there are writers out htere who truly wish to be successful, and they are new and don’t know any better and these people seem to be preying on them. Is an agent really going to be impressed by a review from (fake name) Fred’s Publicity House and Bagels? Any bookstore owners out there going to increase the order based on this? Any editors planning on scooping up this auhtor and signing them fast fast fast based on this paid for review? No. Because the people who are influenced by reviews will recognize it for what it is.

Reviews are hard to get. I understand. At Crimespree the sheer volume of books compared to what we can actually review is very skewed. Larger markets like the NY Times and Chigago Tribune are even harder to get reviews in. I understand why someone might get desperate for some reviews. But do not pay for them. Be patient. Look around. There are plenty of places to send your book that will not charge for the reviewing.

Other thoughts rolling around my brain:

My goals with reviewing have changed over the years. My main goal is to help readers find books that they might otherwise miss. I don’t expect people to read one of my reviews and rush out and buy the book. But what I hope is thet someone will see it and say ” That looks like something I’d enjoy” and they will look into it further.

I’ve read a lot of reviews over my time on this ball of mud and water and some are really great and some suck. I hate reviewers who are more interested in being clever than actually talking about the book. Some reviews are way too long. Some give away spoilers from the book. A certian reviewer on Amazon who claims to read more books a week than any one could imagine frequently give away plot points which ruin the suprise. Shame on you. I also dislike reviews that drift into talking about the author in a demeaning way. Badmouthing a book is one thing, but bad mouthing the author is just childish.

So, reviews.
Don’t pay for them!

By the way, Crimespree 22 will ship this weekend. It’s a little late because the binders were shut down for the holidays and it messed up their schedule a bit.