Friday, August 17, 2012

"Thanks, I'll pass."

This post is more on the behind-the-scenes of book blogging.


I receive all kinds of book promos for this site. All of them are for new titles, of course, and as my regular readers around here know - I'm rather suspicious of new books. (To explain, I think modern novels use far, far too much foul language and include too many references to sex or sexual relationships that they become distasteful to me. You do not need to include such things to tell a good story. In fact, your story would be better by using more discretion!)

In general, novel or no, I try to be really picky about the books I accept. The more reading experience I have and less time to read in, the more choosey I become. In short, I value my time and I do not wish to waste it reading something that I feel doesn't carry much value. Once someone told me that they like it when I review more modern novels because it helps them know which to avoid and saves them time. Well, that's a happy thought but that's not why I read books or review them. I read for myself alone and I truly blog for myself alone. If I suddenly quit learning things from the books I read, I would stop reading (and therefore would stop blogging). Even over at 5 Minutes for Books, where I have more new releases offered to me, I'm still picky.

Lately, I've received some real doozies for consideration. Part of me hesitates to write this post and the other part of me (the part that likes to be bluntly honest at times) is suffering no hesitations. I don't pretend to know how and why publishing houses work as they do but I do wonder sometimes how certain books make it to print.

Some of you have asked me in the past whether or not I respond to publishers and what I say in response when I choose to decline certain offerings.

My answers vary, as follows:

Response Option #1 -

"Thanks, I'll pass." - Sometimes I'll pass simply because I don't care for the premise of the book for one reason or another. I don't necessarily dislike it - I have no enthusiasm for the book and so I'm going to give them the courtesy of the response but not accept the book.

And no, if I'm not going to read it for myself, I'm not going to feature or highlight it here. My policy for Reading to Know (and for myself, as an individual over at 5 Minutes for Books, is to only review or mention a title that I've read, am reading, or have immediate plans to read). I don't want to accidentally recommend something that I discover down the road to be horrible.

Response Option #2 -

"I'm halfway tempted but ultimately I'm going to take a pass." - I may have a spark of interest for the title which I cannot deny. I do have to spend time thinking about my valuable time and whether or not I wish to take a reading risk or not. When I accept a book for review, I want to be as sure as possible that I'll really like it and/or will gain something valuable by reading it. If I have the slightest doubt or hesitation, I've learned that it is better for me to decline than accept.

Response Option #3 -

"I'm not going to accept, but let me tell you why." - Sometimes I have a serious objection or reason for declining a certain book. I have to feel pretty strongly against a particular title to make me respond to the publisher offering my objections to it. I do think feedback can be helpful, giving the publisher or author reasons to think about their presentation, if nothing else.

Example: Once upon a time I received an offer for a book that an author wished me to consider reading. The cover art on this book was obscene and I was violently repulsed by it. Ultimately, I decided to let the author know that in no way could I consider reading the book because the cover art alone was offensive and I tried my best to clearly spell out why. As it turns out, the author's spouse had voiced the same objections and with my feedback, the author made the decision to change the cover art. (And that, I felt, was the least that could be done!) So constructive criticism is helpful.

Response Option #4 -

No response.

Take for example the following title which I'm not going to link to because I'm just not going to:

Cocaine Zombies

Truthfully, I didn't even bother responding to that publicist because it is clear and obvious that they haven't spent anytime browsing Reading to Know whatsoever. If I can tell the e-mail I receive is a form letter in which Reading to Know is heralded as being a fantastic site but then I'm offered something like this, I feel like I've been bulk e-mailed and therefore I don't really need to respond.

Ultimately, I do think responding to the publicist or publisher is important. They took the time to e-mail me, so I figure the politest thing I can do is take the time to respond to them. (Furthermore, just because I don't like the particular title they are telling me about right now, doesn't mean I won't like the next one!) Even if my response is negative, I do think it appropriate to be as friendly in tone as possible and extend my best wishes for their ultimate success. Politeness, as you might have heard, never killed anyone. It also establishes a sense of respect between bloggers and publicists which I also think is very important.

It's definitely ok to "Say No" to certain books. I also think I should say no to some. In accepting or rejecting any book, it's important to make a wise response - and a respectful and useful one. I've learned that by declining or objecting to certain titles, or even dialoguing a bit over my reasons, can produce change in the industry in the smallest ways. By rejecting or accepting a title, you can effect change. So it behooves us to handle either answer to such an offer very well.


Gina @ Hott Books said...

That's funny!!

I've taken to responding with "I'd be happy to review your book but be prepared for a DNF or an F because it really looks out of my realm."

Queen of Carrots said...

Aww, and I was hoping for your review of Cocaine Zombies!

Diary of an Autodidact said...

Presumably the only thing better than "Cocaine Zombies" would be "Wuthering Cocaine Zombies" or some other modern mashup...

I too am suspicious of modern books - particularly modern fiction - for the reasons you state. Also because time tends to cull the chaff from the wheat. It is possible that some great books have been unjustly forgotten, but it is indisputable that thousands of poorly written books have been justly forgotten.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a sad lack of publishers lining up to give us copies of old books. I harbor a hope that someday, Ignatius Press will acknowledge the brilliant nature of my blog (sarcasm font) and offer me the complete G. K. Chesterton. In hardback. Now if they would just hurry up and invent that infinite improbability drive, I might have a chance...

B said...

Well, that review of Cocaine Zombies might have been a fun read for all of us... :)

Cassandra said...

I don't blame you one bit for not accepting books simply for the purpose of reviewing them. There are too many good books out there and not enough time!

Barbara H. said...

The only time I ever did any reviewing for a publisher, Zondervsn, I wasn't given a choice about what to review. They sent about 6 books a month. I wasn't required to review all of them but, I didn't want their books to take up all oft reading time. As a Christian company there wasn't likely to be bad words or sex scenes, but, even still, I wasn't interested in that many. So I only did it a couple of months. I don't know if they do it differently now.

With a secular company you'd definitely need the right to refuse. It's neat that it is an opportunity for feedback for them as well. I'm glad they listen.

Annette Whipple said...

That is so cool that your voice did help change an obscene cover! :)

Often I am part of a group of bloggers that are contacted...I need to remember to respectfully decline those, and not just the individual emails.

Annette Whipple said...

Different question. If someone leaves you an obvious comment that is just to get traffic to there site (with no link)...Do you leave up such generic comments?

Unknown said...

As the author of Cocaine Zombies I am disappointed that you did not wish to review my book but I understand. The are parts of the book that are disturbing and it is not for everyone. Yet, the fundametnal issue within the book is the nature of humanity. Is our essential nature good or evil? The book talks about Nazi Germany, terrorism and cruelty throughout history. It talks about the philosophy of human nature and questions the works of John Stuart Mill in favor of Kant's idea that there is a moral duty do do what is right.

Shonya said...

Interesting insight into your thought processes.

And giggling at the title of Cocaine Zombie.

Tee, hee, giggling again. Interesting defense by the author, but I truly can't imagine seeing that title in the title of one of your posts.

BerlinerinPoet said...

I couldn't even FIND Cocaine Zombies! I am still laughing about that.
Sounds like you have a good system going.

Stephanie Kay said...

Assuming the above comment is truly the author and not one of your friends being a wise guy... I think he missed the whole point of you mentioning his book. Instead of defending his book he would have been bettered served to have realized your blog is NOT the proper place to promote his work, apologize, and take issue with his PR person for not getting his book in the correct markets.

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