Monday, May 31, 2010

Holding onto Unreviewed Review Books

It's become crisis point space-wise here at Euro Crime HQ. The books are everywhere and I need to make a cull.

What happens with review books is this:

Books are sent direct to me as co-ordinator of the website and roughly once a week I email a list of received books with synopsis to the review team. They email back with their preferred choices, I post the books to them and await the reviews. I also get emails from publicists who ask about a review for a particular title and I circulate the details and get the book sent direct to the reviewer (this is preferable to me as it speeds the process up and saves me £££ on postage).

But the thing is - what to do with the books nobody has requested? How long do I hold on to them? Do I hope that someone's enthusiasm will be pricked by a review from another source or perhaps that a new reviewer will join the team who might have different interests?

Does there come a point when a review of a book is too late in the day and that slot would be better given to a newer book?

What do other review sites do? Do they send out books on a pot-luck basis to their reviewers and does this generate more reviews or less if you've not been given a choice as to which books you want to review.

Do publicists care/notice if you don't review every book they send, on the site and would they find it preferable, though time-consuming, for books not to be sent until a home is found ie do everything by email first.

This same quandary about hanging onto books applies to one's own to-be-read pile. When do you say - I'm never going to read that book? and thus rehome it.

One final point is that I also get a small number a week of what I call American serial killer books and unfortunately, they are not covered under euro crime so I donate these either to a fellow blogger or my library.

Any thoughts on the above, from reader, reviewer or publicist, welcomed :).

13 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Karen - I understand your dilemma. I'm not a reviewer, myself, so of course, I don't face the question of reviewing books long after they've been published. I can say, though, that as a reader, I'm honestly not particularly troubled by reviews that come quite a long time after the book's been published. I really don't mind, especially if a reviewer is someone whose judgment I trust. My TBR list is so long, and my budget so limited, that I often don't get to books when they first come out, anyway. I don't know if that's a really direct answer to your question, but it is the truth.

Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Karen - During my life I've worked and lived in three continents and have lost track of the number of times I've change my house. We cannot keep everything we like even if it is something as precious as a book. But if we are not gooing to read it the best thing, in my opinion, is to donate to a public library as you are just doing.

Maxine said...

In my day job I work for a scientific journal, and we are sent many, many books for review, most unsolicited but some solicited. They all live on shelves and every so often when they overspill the staff get an email and can pick one or two for themselves. Any left over go off to a worthy cause (man with many flat packs). Sometimes the book review ed tries to find a reviewer for a book she's requested and can't, other times we never get the review someone has promised to write.

I think it is understood throughout the industry that there is no guarantee to a pubilsher that a website or publication or blog can guarantee a review if a publisher submits books. I would recommend that you cleary state your book review policy on the website or blog, in case of any misunderstandings. But this doesn't help stem the tide - as you write, you get US books sent to you even though this is a European book site.

On my blog I ask publishers not to send me books unsolicited but to ask first. This definitely does not always work - three or four publishers seem to send me every book they publish, several a week, and there is only one of me! Usually there is no contact name with the book, and in any event i don't see why I should spend time and postage money tracking down who sent me unsolicited books and sending them back.

In short, I think it is fine to give away unwanted books to charity or libraries or individuals who want them. Personally, I do not think it is right to sell review copies of books in this way but I do know of people who do it.

Maxine said...

PS A long time ago, the journal I work for ran a "books received" section, which was a simple list of all the books publishers had submitted for review. This at least gave the titles a mention. However, we cancelled it years ago as it was just so time consuming given the 100s a week we are sent, it was a big staff resource to proofread the page, and so on. We announced that we were stopping the service but nobody seemed to mind among the readers and publishers.

Dorte H said...

Like Margot I don´t mind in the least to read a review 1-2 years after publication. Particularly as many of the best British novels do not reach my Scandinavian readers until then anyway.

I can see your problem, though. I think it is fair enough to send them off to a library if they are absolutely ´unsaleable´.

I have chosen not to review for EuroCrime for two reasons: I like feeling free to review books in any old way I choose (often very short reviews), and I like not to have too many books I must review within a limited timespan.

But if you don´t mind posting them to Denmark, I might be able to rid you of some of them. I don´t want to ruin your budget, though, so please don´t offer me books if you´d rather not.

Maxine said...

I think another aspect of this topic that often does not occur to those who hope for a review is the effort it takes to publish them. Karen, you post a half-dozen or so reviews every week, but I know that it takes up quite a bit of time on your Sunday to do this labour of love. As well as that, some of the reviews submitted need editing or fact-checking, pictures and pub details added, and they all need to link into the database and various lists (by author, etc), publsher needs informing, announcements of new reviews on third-party sites, etc. It is not resource-free to publish reviews, whatever anyone may think.

For any new reviewer you take on, you not only have to post the books, but also it takes more of your time if you increase the number or frequency of book reviews you run.

In short, a blog or website or journal is an independent publication with its own publication frequency. If publishers know that you cannot guarantee a review of their books, then they can decide whether or not to submit copies for review, and take their chances ;-)

I.J.Parker said...

Speaking for myself, I gladly take a review any time, even years later.

It occurs to me that you may need more reviewers, or that your reviewers may need to be reminded of what books are still available. If a "second call" produces no takers, give the books away.

Kiwicraig said...

I agree with a lot of what has been said above. I'm in a slightly different situation in that I don't place many reviews on Crime Watch - rather I link through to reviews I've done elsewhere (like the fantastic EuroCrime website - by the way, after a bit of a Euro hiatus, I finally sent you a couple of reviews last week, and more on the way - hope they got through, I've been having email probs) in most cases.

I do get a lot of books sent to me for review, some of which I've requested, some of which have just been thrown in. I feel bad when I don't necessarily find time to read every book, or find a review for one - sometimes it's because a colleague for a particular publication reviews that book before me (because I get sent them independently), and sometimes other reasons (like the pile is just too big).

In the end, I think if you've received review copies that you don't want to keep, I'd go with giving them away in some way (donate to library or charity, etc). I wouldn't feel comfortable selling them myself, unless it was for a charitable fundraiser where all money was donated etc. Although I have bought a couple of 2nd hand books where I've found a 'review copy' sticker inside - so obviously not everyone feels the same.

I also agree with Dorte that later reviews, while obviously not ideal for the publicist given their concentration on sales soon after release, are still valuable, both for the readers and the authors.

Ali Karim said...

It's a nightmare, though it's wonderful to see so many books, but the reality creeps in, as time gets so damned squeezed.

A great post, and my thoughts concur.

Ali

Fiona said...

Not relevant to the post, however: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/may/31/henning-mankell-israel-flotilla-gaza

Bernadette in Australia said...

In short "ditto".

But of course I can't keep it to one word so...

As long as it's clear to publishers that you don't guarantee a review will be published even of a solicited book I think you're in the clear as far as obligation goes. I've worked in the past in/around non-fiction publishing and it was always understood that it's a hit or miss thing whether reviews will be done - publishers will nag and wotnot but that's life.

I actually don't think it matters too much if a review is published a long time after the book - many people don't read new releases (in fact I'd say most people don't) and they're always on the lookout for reviews. And honestly publishing is one of the few industries where the long tail actually matters.

I am pretty much the opposite of a hoarder so I find it pretty easy to regularly cull my books - even those I've not read and am never going to. As long as you have a way of getting rid of them that doesn't involve throwing them away I don't see a problem with it - donation, selling to offset some of the cost of running Euro Crime, whatever you like. Perhaps you should give yourself a limit - if a book has been here for 'x' months with no interest shown by me or by your review team then off it goes to...wherever you decide to let them go.

Donna said...

Karen - you and your Eurocrime reviewers do a fantastic job (and I, personally, don't say thanks often enough when you send a link to the latest batch - so thank you :o) ). I'm sure that publishers realise that not everyone they send books to is going to review that book, and I'm equally sure that for every book Eurocrime doesn't review, there are 5 books sent by the same publisher that you do.

As a suggestion, how about after a certain amount of time unclaimed by reviewers you offer a selection here on the blog for the price of postage and packing plus £1 each? No one is going to begrudge a couple of pounds for a book they want, and you're already out of pocket sending out review books so this would help defray your expenses. And maybe, as a proviso, get that person to review the book for Eurocrime if they like it, as a guest reviewer or something.

Otherwise, I think you should just continue as you are doing and not worry about the books that you don't manage to review.

Lauren said...

Interesting issue. I review very little, and not online (I do a few things for my 'day job', more or less), and unlike many, my delays tend to come more at the writing end than the reading, since I read at bat out of hell speed. (Sounds more appealing than it is, since it makes reading a very expensive hobby.)

I certainly don't mind reading late reviews - since I order a lot of crime novels online, I often wait until the price has gone down and can get a cheap paperback anyway, so the reviews remain relevant. Even good bookshops don't stock a lot of Eurocrime (and as I no longer live in the UK I can't browse there as frequently), so there's no knowing when you'll actually encounter a book.

Not sure if you're actually looking for new reviewers, but given my reading speed, I'd certainly be interested (and Dorte can hopefuly vouch for my - relative - normality!) The postage to Germany might be prohibitive though. Although that's a thought -I can always boomerang books further north at some point...

By the way, do many public libraries take donations? Quite a few I know won't, even if the book is new.

But surely publishers must realise that if they realise a book, unsolicited, into the 'wild', then they can't control what happens to it.