Sunday, August 15, 2010

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe

Those are the words used by a child to make a choice. As adults we mentally do the same thing but with a bit more information behind us in helping us make the selection.

An author asked me a question the other day and I thought it good enough to explore it here.

It was:

How does a book get reviewed?

What grabs a reviewers attention and why do some books get reviewed before others. I know authors who've waited years for a book to be reviewed and gotten nothing while books that come out a week or two ago get a review out like the day after the book is put on sale.

I think those are legitimate questions. On what do we reviewers base our decisions?

I can only respond from the vantage point of whom I review for so it is only one viewpoint or perspective. I'm curious to hear from other reviewers after I've said my piece.

How does a book get reviewed? It gets chosen. At The Long and Short of It Reviews, we reviewers get to chose what books we want to read and review. I find that books reviewed by someone who likes what they are reading are more enthusiastic but at the same time, a reviewer may be more difficult to please because they know what they are looking for and have certain expectations.

What grabs a reviewer's attention? How does it get chosen? I'm sure that there are more factors I can list but I'm going to concentrate on two. First - some authors actually have a fan base. If a reviewer, through working for a review site, discovered a new-to-her/him author and they absolutely adored what they read, then they will grab whatever book that comes through by that author. That's an ideal situation.

The second, and I believe the most prevalent reason, is the blurb. The only thing the reviewers get to see is the blurb sent by the publisher (or sometimes by the author herself/himself).

The blurb's job is a critical one for a review site. In it will include the basic information that will hopefully appeal to a reader. If it's a well written blurb then it will spark interest. If it contains information that pushes a reader's happy buttons, then it will get chosen.

However, if it is a poorly written blurb, then it might be passed over. Which is a sad thing. Why? Because, and correct me if I'm wrong, I believe it's the authors themselves who have to write their own blurbs. How do you condense an entire book into one little paragraph? How do they know what information to put in? What is too little or too much? *Addendum* I've sinced learned that there are some authors who are lucky enough to have editors for blurbs and some who actually write for a publishing house that has official "blurbers" for the authors. How awesome! And how excruciating when a blurb still comes out less than ideal. **

I will be honest. There have been books that I've passed on simply because the blurb turned me off. I'm not talking about it being on a subject I personally don't like. I'm talking a very poorly written, rambling and uninteresting blurb.

I am not going to give actual examples because I'm not putting anybody's hard work in the limelight for others to look askance at. What I am going to do is give an idea what didn't work for me.

A Stressful blurb. Hard to believe that a reader could actually get stressed from a blurb but it's happened to me. I guess there was a tad too much conflict packed into the tiny thing. It didn't generate excitement; more like making me question if I was in the mood for that much angst and drama. Instead of thrilling to the potential suspense, I felt like I might need aromatherapy after reading it. Or chocolate.

The Rambling Rose blurb. This is the worst and thank goodness there's not too many of them. Seen this too. This type does what the name implies; it rambles. It gives a whole outline of the book. So much so that I would sit back and ask myself why I'd even want to read the book after all that? It tries to fit so much in it gets confusing and instead of sounding epic, like the Thornbirds mini-series, it just...turns me off.

The Sex Romp blurb: Ok..this is not objective and I'll admit it. But when I read a blurb and all it touts is the sex without mentioning much of a plot or other bits to challenge my curiosity, or doesn't engage interest in learning what happens to the hero and heroine, or the hero, hero hero, heroine, hero, then I just pass it right over. It doesn't matter if the book is erotic romance. To me, the main word is romance. If the blurb makes it sound like the plot is only a thin fibrous thread to connect the reasons for having sex, then I'm out of there. Romance means emotion and if there is no conflict - I don't mean which man to boing - then I won't want to look further. Of course, if that IS what a reader is looking for on that day, at that moment, because they are 'in the mood' then that blurb just might do its job.

The news is that lately, I've seen less of the Sex Romp blurbs. For that I am thankful.

But, see the dilemma authors face? It's subjective. Readers have various tastes and what works for most will not work for all. It's daunting. There is no science that can explain it all in black and white. It's pretty much heavy in the gray zone called 'opinion'. Books and blurbs seem to get chosen by the same roll of the dice. So, how do we load them? *wink*

So, did I help? Probably not. I'd really like to hear from other reviewers and get their take on what makes a good blurb/bad blurb. I'd also like other reviewers to share why they pick the books they do.

As to why books get reviewed before others? Whoa. Well, that is another many answered thing.

First, I think if it's a book that totally wowed a reader or is one they were waiting for and it's got them jumping out of their skin in excitement, that review is going to get written post-haste. It's like a shout out to the world.

Or, the book was chosen by a Super Reviewer. Those are people who read fast and write faster and sites probably wish they could clone them - if the reviews are well written anyway. ;-)

Then there is the rest of us. Those who read for the joy of reading and will get the review written within the parameters of the site's rules. Ours is: get a book, write the review within 30 days of receipt.

The other way a book can have the review done in a timely fashion is the carrot approach. What is that tantalizing offer? To write something with a pull line that the author/publisher likes so much, it gets quoted and ends up being seen by every reader who picks up that book. I know that I've personally taken the bait more than once and what a thrill when I actually saw my words in print!

How does this happen? Well, there are some sites that will send the blurb long in advance, an ARC is what it ends up being (advanced readers copy) and they'll indicate the publish date. They'll include the publish date because, and this is what I'm thinking they are looking for, they hope to get a review in early enough so they can get a sound bite. Remember my post? If not click SOUND BITE. Anyway, they want the review as soon as possible so they stipulate the "review by" date. Sure works for me. :-)

Then again, if the blurb is sent to us for our picking pleasure only a week before it's published, that doesn't seem like enough time, does it? Especially when reviewers have thirty days with which to get it done. That places it long past the publish date. Not only that, but do authors realize that sometimes publishers send us those all important blurbs long after the initial release date? That sometimes they don't even do it the week before but merely days before? Now that I understand that writers really do appreciate a review being timely, the fact that review requests can come in one week prior to the publish date or even weeks after its release makes me sad. Since that's the case, I feel for the author of the book about to come out because there they are, hoping for reviews right around their publishing date, and they're not there. How bummed they must be! And how much extra pressure on we reviewers.

Obviously, just writing this post isn't going to affect changes anywhere. It is only being written to alert reviewers about how important it is to get their reviews done. It reflects on the review site if it goes beyond thirty days. I wrote this in response to that very nice author who sought answers about how and why books get reviewed. And I explored a few possible answers but by no means are they the only ones so I'm counting on you, my visitors, to offer other reasons reviews happen they way they do.

Meanwhile, I have a review to write. ;-)

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