Monday Blurb: We’re Changing our Review and Feature Practices

Happy Monday, all!  I must admit, it feels sort of odd starting the week without a Children’s Literacy and Reading News roundup, but it is also kind of nice. It has created some space for me to think about my goals for this year and actually take a few baby steps toward progress.  So here goes …

Book Review Policy – UPDATE

Two years ago (maybe a little longer) I “closed” the shelves. We continued to accept books that were automatically sent to us and would consider a few ad hoc requests, but mostly we had more books than we could review in a timely manner. We have had some new volunteers and are creating new ways to advertise volunteer projects (see box on the side for Teen Reviewer opportunities); so I feel more comfortable giving individual requests more consideration.

Nothing in our basic review policy is changing. We will read every book we receive, though we still don’t guarantee a review. We will incorporate the audience’s opinion in every review for the website, and take that perspective into consideration when we make a posting decision. We will still place all quality books (i.e., sans massive typos and grammar problems) with sister nonprofits. But we are adding four new criteria …

  • We will no longer accept middle grade or young adult fantasy. Our reviewers are crying “uncle,” and we’ve barely made a dent the shelves bulging with teen fantasy adventure. We need to mix it up a little more for the reviewers.
  • We will accept a PDF or e-book version of a middle grade or young-adult book as long as we ALSO receive a hard copy (market, review, or ARC). This will allow us to do more with technology for those who have computer tools, but not leave out those who don’t.  We still will not accept PDF or other electronic versions of picture books.
  • The book must be at least nine months old. Our review model doesn’t work well with books that are getting buzz. Our books are read WITH and/or BY the audience. That takes more time. Authors and publishers of brand-new books want reviewers to build or add to the buzz. Authors and publishers with older books understand the long-term value of reviews that come a little later.
  • We will no longer accept self-published books. I really agonized over this, because we have found some wonderful, enjoyable stories among authors who self publish. That said, we are using the public library more and more to tackle review requests. Our reviewers are located all over the country and books aren’t cheap to ship or have shipped back to us so we can get them to readers in need. Self-published books – and even titles from smaller presses – aren’t on library shelves and are otherwise difficult to place after we read them because of quality (mentioned above).

Author Showcase Practices – UPDATE

When I started the Author Showcase feature in January 2006, I designed it to be a quarterly feature for two or three guests. Over the years, it has grown to up to six guests per quarter, and we showcase authors, illustrators, librarians, educators, publishers, and folks passionate about raising readers.

Each feature takes between 15 and 20 hours of research, writing, correspondence, and prep. So essentially, for two weeks I shut down everything else related to the Reading Tub (and my other consulting) to publish a first-class interview feature.  In the interest of “spreading the wealth,” I am going to eliminate the “quarterly” part of the Author Showcase and feature guests as the interest arises.

Ideally, I would like to have one guest per month. I am also hoping that this will even out our revenue stream. As I’ve mentioned we are a 100% volunteer organization – including me. Our Author Showcase provides the funding we need to cover hosting fees, shipping, and the general stuff related to running a business. We think that the $150 donation  is a STEAL for the amount of publicity: two permanent pages on the website (20k+ unique visitors per month); a feature on the blog (1k+ visitors/month); summary in our newsletter; tweets (1,200 followers); and a mention on our FB fan page. It has been very slow this year – I have only one person on the books for the rest of the year so far. I need to do a little more advertising about becoming a featured guest.

Ultimately, moving to an ad hoc feature improves our responsiveness to opportunities, spreads out the guests a little more, and last but not least, helps me keep things in balance!

4 responses to “Monday Blurb: We’re Changing our Review and Feature Practices

  1. I appreciate you sharing your book review policy, Terry. It is something I think about a lot then put into the too hard basket again. Particularly with self-published books. I have accepted occasional ones, but I spend so much time researching and rejecting others, I think I will have to put a blanket NO into my review policy. My time is so much better spent writing than trying to frame a tactful negative. I also am not really a BUZZ reviewer, mostly because it takes me ages to read, reread and write reviews. I’m likely a publicists nightmare. But I’m hoping the quality of the reviews works for some!

    1. “a publicist’s nightmare.” Oh, that is so true! I think quality DOES matter more, and frankly, the odds of saying something new to somebody increase the longer you’re away from the buzz. Have you tried the little colored sticky flags? I have started using them to help me remember pages and passages. What a great help!

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