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My Policy on Writing Book Reviews

(Occasionally I am contacted about my availability to write book reviews. Here’s something I wrote up to explain my policies and preferences). 

About Me: I (Robert Nagle) have a master’s degree in creative writing, run a small ebook publishing company specializing in literary fiction. I also write fiction in various genres and have published two editions of a technical book.  (Here’s a longer bio).

Note: I only review ebooks!

To contact me: write smash AT fastmailbox.net

Please, do not include an ebook attachment in your initial query, but let me know how you’ll get the ebook to me.  If I would like a review copy, I will reply  within 1 week  about my level of interest. 

I have accounts on Netgalley, Smashwords, Instafreebie,  Tor and Amazon. I especially prefer ebooks on sale  on Smashwords (I explain more   below). I am especially interested in titles which have received fewer  than 10 reviews on Amazon.  Any ebook format is ok. I have an account on Booksprout, but this talk about “Booksprout’s freeloader prevention algorithm” seems offputting. Reviewing is not a volume-based business; it is an occasional labor of love!

Where I post reviews: At minimum, I post reviews on Amazon, BN, goodreads, librarything, my blog and Facebook. (Hmm, possibly Kobo too?)  Occasionally I will post on other ezines, blogs or news website, but that is the exception rather than the rule. (The main reason is that it’s often too much trouble to work with literary ezines – contacting them, submitting it to them, etc),On facebook (and sometimes on my blog) I often give informal recommendations for books.  I wouldn’t exactly call them “reviews” but strong endorsements nonetheless.

How I respond: If I reply, I’ll usually reply within 7 days. Chances are, if I have not responded after 7 days, I will be passing on it.  I generally pass on about 60% of the titles I am contacted about (if not more). If I respond, I will usually give one of three generic replies:

a)this book sounds   interesting to me, but I’m not sure if or when I’ll be able to read/review it. (i.e., you can send a review copy,  I’d like that, but you shouldn’t count on a review from me). I collect a lot of free titles and review copies — I also keep close tabs on both these authors and books. Eventually I read a fair number of these titles — though maybe months or years later. And I love keeping tabs on these authors over time

b)I have a high degree of interest in your title — I’ll try to get a review within the year. Congratulations…you’ve picked a title which is right up my alley — the kind of thing I usually read and love. That said, don’t rush me! 🙂 I’m always trying to fit in time for these titles; be patient.

c)I have an urgent desire to read your title and review it. There’s a good chance I might even write a full (long) review rather than a capsule review.  Full disclosure. Sometimes what starts out as a “fierce urgency” becomes a low priority or no priority later on. Hey  these things happen.

When I respond positively, I’ll also:

  • offer review titles from Personville Press as a courtesy. No obligation to read or review, but I think one good gift deserves another. (Most of the titles will be by author Jack Matthews).
  • offer opportunities specific to Smashwords. Smashwords is a great service — seriously! First, apart from writing the review, I can run an ebook giveaway using a Smashwords FREE coupon code (the number of copies can range from 1 to 20 copies). Second, I could do some affiliate marketing/advertising campaign through Smashwords with you. Third, if you want to include a discount coupon code in the review, I’ll be happy to spread the word.

Keeping in touch. I don’t mind receiving  unsolicited ebook emails  … to a point…. But please don’t send me stuff more than once a month. (It’s ok to send exactly one NUDGE  email 3-6 months after I get the review copy).

My ebook database. In early 2018 I started a  massive database of my ebook collection and titles awaiting review.  Every year since 2012 I have acquired about 150  ebooks — about 2/3 are freebies/review copies, 1/3 are things I actually bought (often at a discount).  I decided to do this because I have been losing track of ebooks. I have almost reached a point when I can keep track of what I’m receiving.  I frequently revisit my older titles for review. Right now I’m writing a review for a book I requested in 2015!

My Ebook Reviewer Preferences

If you’re on the fence about whether you think I might like it — send me a query anyway  — Take a chance! I read all sorts of random things — check out my Recent reads on my blog and on Goodreads.

I have almost Zero Interest in…..

  • Anything that is part of  a series (I am  anti-series).
  • books under 25,000 words,
  • ebooks whose list price is over $10
  • Books written by people under the age of 25. I don’t care how brilliant or talented you youngsters  are!
  • Mysteries/Spies/Suspense/Medical Thrillers/Horror. Murdery stuff  rarely appeals to me for some reason.
  • Strangely, I often never want to read fiction works where the US president is a main character
  • books about zombies/vampires/werewolves
  • Books that are continuations of movies/tv shows
  • Harry Potter and H.P. clones; same for Hunger Games
  • Historical romance, paranormal romance
  • Strangely, although I have no problem reading  stuff with lots of profanity, slang or violence,  I almost never enjoy reading them
  • True crime/financial scandals/real spies.
  • Nonfiction: Self-help, religious subjects,  business subjects
  • Trivia, joke  and other novelty books
  • Bestselling authors. Who cares!

I have particularly strong interests in:

  • Literary fiction — especially short fiction and  experimental fiction/prose poems
  • interactive storytelling, Choose your own adventure kind of stuff.
  • Books about climate change or with a strong environmental sensibility
  • Books about the Civil War or 19th Century Americana (fiction or nonfiction). Come to think, I’ve also interested in colonial America.
  • Creative commons ebooks (irrespective of genre)
  • Self-published stuff is ok (as long as it’s grammatical and fully realized, etc).
  • Books about the life of the artist
  • Books  published a few years ago which have received next to no reviews.
  • Any book about music (fiction or nonfiction). I’m writing a book about music collecting.
  • Favorite Places: Texas, Ireland, Eastern Europe, India, Germany. Books with these settings hold some special personal appeal to me. I also enjoy authors from these regions (regardless of genre).
  • Philosophical/metaphysical  sci fi, (Philip K Dick)
  • Stories about the world of work — ethical aspects, menial aspects, odd professions, etc…
  • fiction about social problems and problems of conscience — while not being overly political.
  • Fiction that takes a well-known genre and turns it on its head (in the form of parody, genre-bending, subverting expectations). Maybe you write about a genre in a very highbrow way (i.e., Don Quixote, satirical mystery etc,)
  • Nonfiction Subjects:  Literary Biographies, Literary essays, Popular Science, Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Social Problems. I go for history too —  especially if the area is obscure. This may sound strange, but I’ve recently become interesting in math and quantitative stuff…
  • Any treatment of academic subjects no matter how esoteric

I have a medium amount of interest in…

  • I am open to well-written erotica — especially if it’s comic/satirical/short stories or psychologically plausible. I’m straight — not that amenable to LGBT, though I wouldn’t reject anything just for what category it is. I also occasionally read  serious stories about erotic themes  (abuse, gender roles, the art of seduction, coming of age,  dystopia). It’s hard to offend me  .. though it’s somewhat easy to bore me!
  • Somewhat interested in fiction taking place in a different time period
  • Fairy tales — any new spin.
  • Satire and humor — even first person stuff.
  • Psychological studies — not about killers but about unconventional lifestyles and perspectives.
  • Nonfiction: I used to review a lot of IT and programming books, but my interests have narrowed a lot since then. I’m more interested in more general subjects like AI, game aesthetics and narratives, human factors, cybersecurity
  • Stuff with a classical theme. Maybe modern-day retelling of mythology,

I have slight interest in….

(ie., I could be persuaded to like these things, but the default assumption is no).

  • Comics/graphic novels.
  • Books about teaching/schools, etc.
  • Travel books
  • Poetry. I read a decent amount of poetry, but rarely write reviews.
  • Memoirs —  there are so many titles in this genre that I am extremely picky. Even celebrity memoirs are (yawn!) tiresome.
  • Young adult and ebooks for middle school.  I’m sure many of these are wonderful, but I’m not very interested in discovering at this point in my life.
  • Chicklit stuff;  some of this stuff is hilarious and I may give it a try, but I’m generally not a good reader for this stuff.
  • Nonfiction: medicine, health, cooking,
  • Certain kinds of sci fi mostly bore me:  alien invasion, time travel (hate it!), military sci

Will I contact the author or publisher when the review is up? In the past I have done this, but recently I have stopped. It is somewhat awkward to contact the subject of the review directly (especially if the review itself is cursory or less-than-enthusiastic). Plus, it’s just another thankless chore.  Although sometimes I make exceptions to this rule, I just assume that the author or publisher is able to see the review when it goes on Amazon or elsewhere.

How long are the reviews?  I have 3 formats. First, a short one paragraph capsule review in a single blog post consisting of several short reviews. (Example here).  They usually have cover art, a very short description and a one sentence summation/verdict. Second, a longer review in a certain template with two or three paragraphs (or more).  (Example  here).  They are written more carefully and with more thought. Third, sometimes I do roundups about interesting ebooks — even if I haven’t actually read them. (See this example here). I regularly will do a mention of interesting-sounding ebooks on FB even if I never get around to reviewing them.

How often do I post reviews? Not as often as I’d like. Sometimes, months go by without writing reviews – or even reading books. The reason is that I sometimes get wrapped up in reading for a special purpose and sometimes just am plain too busy. Whenever I promise to review a title by a certain date, I almost always fail. Instead I just indicate a level of interest and urgency. Although procrastination or polite indifference may have something to do with it, often the reason I am late is that I want to be able to speak intelligently about a particular book. Sometimes it is difficult to digest what a book is about or whether it has succeeded.

My policy on negative reviews/not reviewing ebooks. I rarely write negative reviews, but most reviews do contain at least one criticism. Unless posting a negative review is of earth-shattering importance to society, I generally just don’t write a review at all.

How old can a book title be to be reviewed? I am almost completely indifferent to publication dates. Often I deliberately avoid topical books and revel in writing reviews that are out-of-print and inaccessible. On the other hand, I tend to prioritize titles which haven’t received enough reviews. In other words, if you have a 5 year old ebook that only was given a one sentence review several years ago, yes, I’ll still consider it!

Ebook Advertising? I accept a limited number of ads for ebooks on this blog. (Here’s how).  If you’re on Smashwords, that’s a plus. I could do coupon codes and giveaways if your want. Right now I’m not ready to do book tours with authors, but at some later date, I could consider that.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Jonathan Frame 11/2/2018, 1:29 am

    Hello

    I came across you in the Indie Book Reviewers list and I am writing to ask if you would be interested in reviewing my latest book, Schrödinger’s Elephant, published in August 2018.

    Why Schrödinger’s Elephant? Imagine a cat in a box. Quantum mechanics implies the cat is both alive and dead until the box is opened and its state can be determined. Schrödinger’s Elephant takes the concept of Elephant In The Room to be the ever-expanding global human population and the environmental and social consequences – depletion of natural resources, the increase in violence as more and more people compete for survival. Only that particular Elephant is in the next room, the room politicians and world leaders ignore, the room no-one dares open the door to for fear what state they may find.

    The book is a collection of five novellas exploring this theme and the idea humanity is programmed to maintain its population levels sub-consciously through violence, war and so on. Each novella deals with a particular point in history as women revolt against men, leading to the eradication of human males. The remaining female population battles to survive and evolve as a mono-gender species.

    Regarding genre, it falls into the science fiction/dystopian field. Total word count is about 132,500 words and I can supply it in PDF, mobi or epub formats.

    The link to Amazon is https://www.amazon.co.uk/Schr%C3%B6dingers-Elephant-Jonathan-Frame-ebook/dp/B07GTFDKKX/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

    I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

    Regards

    Jonathan Frame

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