5 Tips for Writing Book Reviews as a Freelance Writer

By Elisabeth Kauffman

If you have a love for reading and enjoy expressing your opinions about the books you read, writing book reviews can be a great way to build your portfolio as a freelance writer. Here are 5 tips if you’re considering giving book reviews a try.

Try small local publications first.

You’re going to need a place to publish your reviews. Your local newspaper may be willing to print your review for you. If they don’t have a book review section, start one! Not every place you turn to will be ready to pay you for book reviews, but even without pay you’ll be adding by-lines to your portfolio, and will build professional relationships in the process. When you’ve exhausted those avenues then try Writer’s Market and Literary Marketplace for places to publish your reviews.

Timeliness is important.

Make sure you stay current with the literary trends. Review books that have just been published or that are being released soon. In order for your review to have the greatest possible impact, make sure to publish it within 2 weeks to 2 months of a book’s release. If you wait too long, you’ll risk not having enough reader interest to make your review relevant. You can often write to the publisher to request an advance copy of a book if you let them know you are planning to review it.

Be thorough.

Read the entire book, don’t just skim it. This should go without saying, but some people like to cut corners. Don’t be that person. If you feel the need to skim, ask yourself why? There could be a reason you’re not enjoying the process.

Play to your strengths.

Romance, mystery, dark fantasy—pick a genre you enjoy and become an expert. There’s no reason you should limit yourself, but if you read all of Orson Scott Card’s Ender books as a child and love them dearly, there’s a chance you may enjoy sci-fi. Why not spend time reading and writing about the things you love? That said, be prepared not to love every book you review.

Honesty is the best policy.

If you loved the book, say so. If you didn’t love it, again, say so. Every writer wants a positive review, but if you read a book and you have a negative reaction, be forthright about it.  Your readers will appreciate your honest opinion in the long run. If you write a negative review back up your opinion with solid examples in the text. You’ll build credibility this way.

Review writing can be an enjoyable experience, or an overwhelming one. Set your boundaries and expectations clearly. Remember, your time is valuable. When people begin regularly soliciting your reviews, it may be time to consider raising your rates!

Elisabeth Kauffman is a freelance writer and editor in Connecticut. She blogs about writing and Young Adult fiction at Fairbetty’s World. When her nose is not in a book she likes hiking with her awesome dog, Tag.    

Photo Credit: pear83

The iUniverse Rants: Coming Clean

This is a difficult post for me to write. Partly because I have to reveal to you that I’ve been duped, and partly because I prefer to ignore any and all things related to my ex-husband. So I’m coming clean about my iUniverse rants.

This post was imported from Suess's Pieces and may contain broken links and missing images

It’s also difficult to write because the story is not linear, and explaining to you what’s happened to me since I wrote my first book review on Suess’s Pieces last July won’t be simple. Please bear with me.

For several months now, I’ve suspected that my ex-husband was behind the drama leading to my open tirades against iUniverse here on my blog. Some of the communication I had with the authors requesting book reviews just didn’t sit right with me. And, although I couldn’t really prove it, I knew deep down I was being played. Used.

Without much in the way of evidence to call out my ex on his backhanded badgering, I pretty much just went off on iUniverse and the individual authors in order to vent my frustrations and try to discourage any further interaction with them.

Not that it worked.

Some of you probably thought I was taking it all a little too seriously, but in reality I wasn’t prepared to go public with my conspiracy theory. I offered little in the way of explanation for my outbursts. I figured it would have made me look like an insane ex-wife with a grudge to blame my ex for what was going on with all these authors. General venting on my blog was all I had.

Then by chance (or perhaps not by chance at all) a man I once knew left this comment on my April 18, 2012 blog post. A light bulb went off, and that was all it took for the rest of the pieces to begin to fall into place.

As I kept digging deeper for confirmation of my suspicions, I became more enraged with every telling morsel I found.

This is my story. This is my attempt to explain to you why a woman who has never even written a book would waste her time trying to encourage writers to become skeptics of the self-publishing world in general, but these companies in particular: iUniverse, AuthorHouse and AuthorSolutions. (AuthorSolutions is the company that owns iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Trafford and xLibris, and it is connected to Hay House’s imprint, Balboa Press—the corporate incest is relevant. I think you’ll see why as you read on.)

How I Got Started Writing Book Reviews

A self-published author named Georgia Brock contacted me on Twitter in June 2011, asking if I did book reviews on my blog. It seemed a little odd to me—since I wasn’t a known reviewer—that a complete stranger would reach out to me for an evaluation of her book. But I figured self-published authors probably struggled a lot trying to get attention for their books, and my blog was relatively well-established.

I agreed to review Brock’s It Started on a Garden Tour if she provided a review copy, and I announced on my blog and on Twitter that I was planning to accept more titles. A couple of authors who were already online connections asked if I’d take on their works. Of course, I agreed. Those two or three authors are not in any way related to this tale.

Between July 3, 2011 and September 3, 2011, I wrote a total of five book reviews on Suess’s Pieces where the books were directly connected to AuthorSolutions and iUniverse.

  • It Started on a Garden Tour (AuthorHouse)
  • Just Another Eylsian Sidetrip (AuthorHouse)
  • The Velvet Thorn (iUniverse)
  • Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit (iUniverse)
  • What on Earth Are We Doing Here? Exploring the Case for Human Suffering (Balboa)

In August of 2011, I received an email from a social media publicist at AuthorSolutions. She explained to me that I had agreed to review one of her author’s titles, and asked me if I would be willing to look at another. I agreed and let her know that from then on she could just send me additional titles. No point in wasting time on formalities.

What Triggered My First Meltdown

About a week after I made this agreement with the social media publicist, I wrote “When Book Reviews Attack!” This veritable snarkfest of a post resulted from requests coming to me through various authors’ Twitter accounts and blog comments. They were getting out of line, in my opinion. So I spelled it all out for them, lest any other authors think about asking me for similar ridiculous favors.

That meant sending a retraction to the social media publicist I mentioned earlier. I needed to let her know I’d axed the free reviews on my blog. I thought I’d send her a quick message on Twitter.

Looking at her Twitter profile, I discovered a tweet she sent to my ex-husband in her timeline, and I stopped cold. I wasn’t in the habit of following him on Twitter, so it came as a surprise to me that they knew each other. I chalked it up to coincidence because the company hails from nearby Bloomington where he went to school. I did not care to look into it any further. My wont is to avoid my ex and any people I know to be connected to him. I unfollowed her, and things were relatively quiet for the next few months.

Divorce is Ugly

I suppose now is as good a time as any to fill you in on how I came to be happily divorced. I filed with the court on July 10, 2008 because I could no longer stand being in his company. But for several months prior to that, I’d been trying to work it out with him.

“Trying to work it out” included a few sessions with a counselor at the pretty, white, suburban church we’d been attending. Those sessions were all very much the same: me crying with a box of tissues by my side, the counselor asking soothing and non-accusing questions, and my ex-husband flapping on while his pants idiomatically ignited into white-hot flames.

The whole experience left me disillusioned with the idea of church and rather offended by that church in particular. Promises to “protect me” (whatever that meant) amounted to nothing more than the coddling of an unremorseful man.

At one point after I’d filed for divorce but before the 90-day waiting period was up, I remember telling my ex-husband that he couldn’t go to that pretty, white, suburban church anymore. Essentially I was saying that I was getting the church in the divorce. You know, the way some couples fight over who gets to keep the condo or the SUV.

I had no intention of ever going back to that church; I just couldn’t bear the thought of him using it as a social club for getting jobs and networking on Sunday mornings. I had my suspicions he was lying to me when he agreed, because the church was comprised of moneyed families and sucessful businessmen and women. And my ex-husband? Well, he was a public relations professional without a job.

Putting the Pieces Together

After a few months of pleasant blogging without the annoying pokes of iUniverse authors, two new authors started blipping on my radar. That’s how “OMFG, iUniverse Authors!” came to be published on April 18, 2012.

The first author merely commented on an old post. I bristled at his unfounded comment, but didn’t become truly angry until a second iUniverse author engaged me on Twitter. People who self-promote the way she did—by baiting me with talk of something I’ve expressed interest in only to lead me to irrelevant, self-promotional crap—are what’s wrong with social media marketing, in my opinion. I took screen shots. I posted them. I swore.

At least five different people said to  me, “I knew you were passionate about this iUniverse thing, but I had no idea.”

In hindsight, I was terribly hard on the authors, even though part of me suspected they weren’t actually the ones leaving the comments and hitting me up on Twitter. It seemed more like the work of a hack publicist, not someone truly vested in sharing their life’s work with the world.

But I didn’t care, because if these authors weren’t directly responsible for the communications, they were indirectly responsible for not monitoring how their online reputation was being managed.

Five days passed before the fateful comment I mentioned at the beginning of this post was submitted on “OMFG, iUniverse Authors!” When I saw it and saw the commenter’s unmistakable name, it only took a second for me to start connecting the dots. Four years ago, the commenter spoke in front of the congregation at that pretty, white, suburban church.

I have no idea what he spoke about anymore. Maybe it was an upcoming event or program. But it doesn’t matter now anyway. Seeing his comment on my blog, I no longer doubted that my ex-husband had been using me and my goodwill to get free book reviews for his clients. And the absurd requests—like the one asking me to take my picture with a book at the race track?—I think that was all him too.

What I Know vs. What I Think to Be True

There are some things I will never be able to prove. For instance, I don’t know that my ex was the one composing those comments and tweets*. I do know, however, that someone at AuthorSolutions left a comment for me under the name of Georgia Brock. Georgia Brock, you’ll recall, was the author of the first book ever reviewed on Suess’s Pieces.

I have Gmail. That means I have tons of space, killer search functions, and no reason to ever delete any of the emails I receive. That’s why I still have access to Disqus comment system notifications from 9 months ago.

You see, Disqus records the IP addresses of those leaving comments on my blog. That IP address can then be looked up easily online. This is what ip-lookup.net tells me about, the author of the comment in question.

If they’re writing comments for clients, might they also be Tweeting for their clients?

Also, do you remember the social media publicist who I discovered had tweeted to my ex-husband? That connection wasn’t a coincidence. I’ve since checked out the ex’s Twitter profile and confirmed that he works with her at AuthorSolutions.

AuthorSolutions’ Global Marketing Director? Well, looks like the pretty, white, suburban church has a rather effective Good Ol’ Boys club at work among the congregants. Based on his job title, I’m assuming he’s my ex’s current boss.

Considering that I went back to my maiden name after the divorce and considering that I had no meaningful  contact with the Global Marketing Director of AuthorSolutions while I attended the pretty, white, suburban church, I doubt he had any idea whose blog he was commenting on. If he did know who I was…well, I hope someone steals his favorite cufflinks or something.

My Self-Publishing Convictions

I still stand by all of my incessant rambling about the pitfalls of self-publishing and iUniverse in particular. Because even when you remove my ex-husband from the equation, I’ve read an overwhelming number of self-pubs that are lackluster, typo-ridden atrocities.

The one or two good self-published works I’ve read don’t convince me that self-publishing  companies are improving the industry; they just convince me that exceptionally capable authors occasionally succeed against all odds.

And remember: I say all of this not as someone with a dog in the traditional publishing vs. self-publishing fight, but as a reader. As one of the people everyone in the publishing industry is supposedly trying to win over.

I think too many authors who self-publish aren’t skeptical enough when it comes to shelling out their money. So in days to come I’ll be posting interviews with people who have used iUniverse and wanted to share their experiences.

Why am I singling out iUniverse if I think all self-pubs need to try harder? Well, not to sound like I’m eight years old…

But they started it.

*9/5/12 I do, however, know now that the Author Solutions publicity team did create Twitter accounts and post updates on behalf of their clients. This was verified by an anonymous employee.

Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints Index

Five Dances With Death

For the record, this is a free book review. I even paid for my copy of Five Dances myself. For an explanation of why I agreed to do another free book review after vowing not to do them ever again, read yesterday’s post, “Words are Yummy.”

Five Dances With Death: Dance One. Austin Briggs. 2011. Helvetic Press.

If stories of human sacrifice and Aztec magic are your thing, then I recommend Briggs’s work of historical fantasy, Five Dances With Death, without reservation. Go and buy it now. If you’re not necessarily into that sort of thing, you might want to reserve judgment until you’ve read the full review.

Five Dances tells the story of the protagonist, Angry Wasp, a warrior of a small Aztec nation searching for his kidnapped daughter while his people are being threatened by both the arrival of the Spanish and the stifling reign of Montezuma.

An integral part of the storytelling in Five Dances revolves around Wasp’s wife’s expertise in black magic. She teaches him to navigate the Void, leading to several out-of-body scenes in the book. If I’m honest, these scenes were difficult for my brain to process. Rather than take them for what they were and maintain my reading momentum, I’d get hung up on the allegory asking myself, “But what does it all mean?” And though it may well have been that way by design, I found it slightly discouraging. I felt a little lost at times—not a feeling I particularly enjoy as a reader.

That said, I was always relieved to return to the more straightforward narration, and I found the bits of action enthralling. Sacrificing humans to appease the gods? Cutting out their beating hearts? That’s some fascinating stuff, folks, and Briggs writes the blood and gore very well. Without being too over the top, his depictions made me wince as I imagined what it must have been like to have lived in that place at that time.

Which brings me to more praise for Briggs’ work. If you visit his website, he explains that he spent “10 years researching the history of the Aztec Empire and the Spanish conquest.” I totally believe it. Five Dances illustrates a mastery of historical context.

(A quick aside: while I was gathering affiliate links to include in this post, I noticed one Amazon reviewer mentioned a glossary at the beginning of the book.  It would have been nice to know that before I started reading. The Kindle apparently skips forward beyond this section. So, Kindle owners? Turn back a few pages when you open the book. You’re welcome.)

A final word. If you know me at all, you know that I’m rather vocal about my loathing of self-published works. They are notoriously full of typos, sport atrocious cover designs and commonly lack substance. Not the case with Five Dances With Death. I mean, I did notice a typo, but it’s nice to be able to attribute that to inevitable human error rather than absolute carelessness for once. And, yeah, I’m looking forward to Dance Two.

Words are Yummy

If you’ve never seen my Twitter bio, it reads thusly: Freelance copywriter sharing, selling, and sometimes eating her words since 2003.

People think I’m just being funny with that whole eating-my-words spiel, but I do mean it. And really, I don’t mind eating them every now and again. Just to prove it, I’m going to chew a few right now.

The Backstory

Remember that time I got myself all worked up into a book reviewer’s huff because a few authors—or perhaps the PR hacks they hired to manage their social media accounts (one can never be too sure these days)—had the nerve to keep asking me for special favors?

Well, my Crank-O-Meter™ went off the charts when that one lady asked me to take her self-published book about racing to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, snap a fan girl picture of myself with the book, and then follow up by posting said photo on Facebook in addition to reviewing her work.

Typing that out just now? I still can’t believe it.

Anyway, after that I basically told all authors—even the good ones who respect my time—that they could say goodbye to free book reviews on my blog. All because a few bad apples had spoiled the bunch.

Here’s where I start masticating.

Tomorrow I’m going to review a book.

For free.

I know, I know! But I have good reasons for making an exception this time. (The general policy still stands, however. Don’t press your luck people.)

What It Takes to Get a Free Book Review

So what did the author of tomorrow’s book do to merit a coveted free review on Suess’s Pieces? I’ll tell you.

  • He never asked me to read his book. I had been to his website and blog, decided odds were good that his book was totally worth the $.99 Kindle price, and read the book without being pitched by the author or a PR rep.
  • He did me a solid first. I asked him to help judge Writers’ Week entries last month, and he said yes.
  • He understands how the world works. I don’t get many cold calls these days, but I do get more than enough cold emails from people who want something for nothing. It’s refreshing to be approached by someone who actually took the time to read my content and engage in the conversations that take place here on my blog first. This is real online social engagement*—something a lot of authors and even a few self-proclaimed PR “gurus” just don’t seem to get.
  • He said thank you. When I finish Kindle books, I use the nifty little share button to Tweet my accomplishment. He saw that little announcement, Tweeted back, and followed up later with an email politely asking me whether I would consider reviewing his book, since I had already finished it. He thanked me for my time, no matter what my decision.

As I explained to Austin Briggs, author of Five Dances with Death, the book review fees I posted are really just bad book repellant. They’re designed to pay for my time reading books I might not otherwise pick up. Since I read his book for leisure, it seemed skeevy to charge him for the reading part ex post facto.

So all of this is just my terribly long-winded way of telling you that tomorrow I’m going to review his book, and he didn’t pay me to do it.

*I could write an entire novel about the shady, inconsiderate PR industry, but I won’t because The Bloggess seems to have covered that whole mess quite eloquently already.

Photo credit: Cjcj

What on Earth Are We Doing Here?

As many of you already know, this is my final free book review. It is also the only non-fiction title I have reviewed. My personal bias factors heavily in the following assessment. Keep that in mind.

What on Earth Are We Doing Here? Exploring the Case for Human Suffering. Elaine A. Piha. 2011. Balboa Press.

As the title suggests, What on Earth Are We Doing Here? Exploring the Case for Human Suffering is a book that explores age-old questions about human purpose and the role of suffering in our lives. Written by a certified life coach and holistic healing counselor, it started off on very shaky ground before I even turned to page one. Terms like “life coach” and “holistic healing counselor” make me roll my eyes, truth be told.

In the first chapter Piha writes, “The moment you realize that no one is going to rescue  you is the moment you become empowered to rescue yourself.” Trite as it may be, I do agree with this sentiment. However, that’s about all I agree with in the book’s 100 pages.

Right away, the author speaks of near-death experiences and past life regressions as if they are concepts that need no substantiation. She evokes the names of Sylvia Browne, Edgar Cayce and Dr. Raymond Moody as if they are universally accepted as honest-to-god experts. (I assure you that is not the case.)

As a work of non-fiction that purports to have the actual answers to questions like, Why do we suffer? and What is our purpose? I can’t help but be slightly irritated by the lack of reference to authoritative works and substantive information.

For example, the author claims, “Interestingly, there were references to reincarnation in both the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible but they were taken out for heresy, despite being accepted by early church leaders.” It might be true; I’m not an expert. But if you’re going to write shit like that, you need to back it up. Give me your source. Let me investigate.

Readers can’t investigate what the author represents as fact at all with What on Earth Are We Doing Here? Exploring the Case for Human Suffering, because the author doesn’t use footnotes—she doesn’t even give a respectable bibliography. The closest she comes is a section titled “Just a Few of the Books that Have Illuminated My Path” which lists such works as Life After Death: The Burden of Proof by Deepak Chopra and The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle. Frankly, those names just elicit more eye rolling.

I could easily spend the next several days harping on all that I disagree with in Piha’s book, but I don’t really think that’s necessary. I do respect her position that individuals should explore these questions on their own. It’s good to read, think, and question. And despite my misgivings about What on Earth Are We Doing Here, I do know that there are people out there that will find this book a source of comfort and inspiration.

To each his own, I guess.

Apparently You Can’t Even Give iUniverse Books Away

…Of course, my evidence that you can’t give iUniverse books away is only anecdotal.

This post was imported from Suess's Pieces and may contain broken links and missing images

Kevin’s back. This time with a response to My Thoughts on iUniverse and a very generous offer. I am glad he stuck around to continue the conversation with me, but I am somewhat disheartened that he didn’t also address this comment left by a very unhappy iUniverse customer in the same thread. Ah well, time is limited for everyone. We’ll take what we can get, won’t we?

Kevin’s response:


I haven’t read the iUniverse title in question, so I can’t judge the quality of this book; but I find it troubling that you would judge a publisher’s entire library based on one or even a small selection of titles. Using this logic would mean that Simon & Schuster puts out books of questionable quality because one of its imprints, Gallery, published Snooki Polizzi’s book.

Your remark: “Regardless, throwing the blame back on the author—because they have the final say, after all—is to deny (or at the very least minimize) iUniverse’s role in polluting the market with utter crap,” is also puzzling to me. Are all iUniverse titles “utter crap” because they don’t receive the blessings of a gatekeeper?

If so, by this logic, all blogs would be “utter crap,” and WordPress would be polluting the Internet because unlike content produced by news organizations, blogs aren’t scrutinized by a gatekeeper. Readers judge if a blog is worth reading, and that determines its level of success.

I would be happy to send a sample of quality iUniverse titles for you to read. Please let me know your preferred genre and how I can get them to you. Thanks for providing this forum for dialog.

Kevin A. Gray
kevin.gray @iuniverse.com

Oh, Kevin, I dare you to read Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit. Triple dog dare you.  But that’s kind of beside the point. Let’s get to the heart of your comment, shall we?

At no time have I ever judged iUniverse’s entire library. I was clear about my inability to do such a thing because I haven’t read all of your titles. See the original quote:

Now, I’m not saying everything that comes from iUniverse is crap, because I haven’t read everything from iUniverse. But I know for a fact that some of what comes from iUniverse is crap, because I’ve had the misfortune of reading it.

Likewise, I never labeled “all iUniverse titles ‘utter crap.'” You seem to have jumped to that conclusion all by yourself (and then subsequently gone off on some wild, fallacy-ridden tangent about WordPress and news organizations to boot).

I simply stated that because iUniverse does print some crap, it should be held accountable for its part in printing said crap. In the case of all given works of crap, the authors are responsible for writing them, for sure. But iUniverse is also culpable, as a result of its business model.

When questions of money vs. quality arise at iUniverse, I get the distinct impression that money always wins. You made that pretty clear to me when you pointed out that authors can push forward despite the professional advice of iUniverse reps.

There’s no need to be ashamed about any of that, I guess. We all understand that making money is what businesses do. But I feel iUniverse needs to do a better job of owning it and accepting that it does indeed contribute to market pollution. Now, having personally read a total of three different iUniverse titles recently and a total of zero good ones,  my personal opinion is that iUniverse probably puts out proportionately more crap than, say, Simon & Schuster (since you mention them).

QAs a book-loving consumer, I’m already done taking chances on iUniverse. So concerning your offer to send me more titles? Thanks, but no thanks.

Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints Index

My Thoughts on iUniverse

On Saturday I reviewed a book titled Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit, published by iUniverse. I have a few thoughts on iUniverse.

This post was imported from Suess's Pieces and may contain broken links and missing images

There’s no need to read the original review unless you just want to. I can sum it up for you by saying this: my overall opinion of the work, though completely honest, wasn’t exactly flattering.

A smattering of people commented on the post, but I wouldn’t say it attracted much feedback. That’s generally the case with these types of self-pub reviews, I’ve noticed. However, when commenter Grizzbabe rightly pointed out that the book’s cover couldn’t be any cheesier, I lamented in my reply to her that “you don’t get professional editing services, and you sure as heck don’t get real graphic designers” from a place like iUniverse.

An iUniverse representative was good enough to stop by and leave the following comment in the company’s defense. I wanted to draw some attention to it for two reasons: first, because I think it’s important to hear from other people on the subject of self-publishing, and second, because I just couldn’t let it stand there without providing additional commentary.

Here is Kevin Gray’s comment, unedited:

Actually, Emily professional editing services are available through iUniverse; and we storngly recommend every author utlize the services of a professional editor — either through iUniverse — or from another source. Because iUniverse is an indie publishing company, authors are free to disregard this advice and push forward without an editor.

Authors are also encouraged to take great care in working with iUniverse in designing their covers. Many authors provide their own artwork or commission the services of a professional illustrator — either through iUniverse or again from an external source. Authors have final signoff on the entire book, including the cover, before the book is put into distribution.

The fact is fewer and fewer “non-superstar” authors are receiving advances from publishers, making indie publishing providers like iUniverse more and more popular. Whether an author chooses to publish through iUniverse, or to utilize another publishing option, we encourage all authors to seek out the assistance of professionals to ensure their books are the best they can be.

Kevin A. Gray
kevin.gray @iuniverse.com

First, I don’t dispute that iUniverse sells editing and design services to its customers. But, were Mr. Gray and I to compare notes on what qualifies as a “professional” designer or editor, I fear we might find some real discrepancies. At any rate, I can’t adequately judge the editing capabilities of iUniverse’s editing professionals, because I don’t know which authors chose iUniverse editors and which chose to do their own thing.

Regardless, throwing the blame back on the author—because they have the final say, after all—is to deny (or at the very least minimize) iUniverse’s role in polluting the market with utter crap. (Now, I’m not saying everything that comes from iUniverse is crap, because I haven’t read everything from iUniverse. But I know for a fact that some of what comes from iUniverse is crap, because I’ve had the misfortune of reading it.)

Actually, did I refer to iUniverse as a publisher earlier? Because I didn’t mean to. iUniverse and companies like it are more like printers than publishers. And, dear authors, if you don’t get that, you need only consider which direction the money is flowing.

Maybe operations like these do have a place in the free market, particularly if Mr. Gray’s argument—that traditional publishers are mostly just signing the superstars these days—holds water. However, people shouldn’t be deluded about what’s really going on here.

Writers, I’d just like to close by saying this: if seeing your novel in print is on your bucket list and traditional publishers have rejected your work, why not pay iUniverse to print it and slap it on Amazon.com? I’m all about people dying fulfilled and junk.

If you’ve used iUniverse or a similar service, please share your experience with me in the comments.

When Book Reviews Attack!

This post was imported from Suess's Pieces and may contain broken links and missing images

After completing a handful of free book reviews here at Suess’s Pieces and receiving several requests for future reviews, I have discovered a problem with my book review model. So things are about to change around here. And I’m about to make myself look like the meanest person you ever did meet.

Yo, Authors, I’m Not Your Private Fangirl

I started reviewing books for free as a way to help self-published and little-known authors get a modicum of online publicity for their works, and I was glad to do it. What can I say? I’m a writer who likes to give back where she can. However, I started receiving requests from authors* that made me wonder if I had the word groupie or fangirl tattooed on my forehead.

Initially the requests from authors seemed innocuous enough. I was asked to make comments on a blog post. Then I was asked to write a post on Suess’s Pieces in response to one author’s recent blog post with a link back to the original (in addition to the initial review.) I was later asked to retweet this or that.

Blah, blah, blah.

I ignored these different requests for the most part. Manners and etiquette aren’t universal traits, after all. But then yesterday I received an @mention on Twitter after letting an author know that her book had arrived and was in the queue for review. The author wrote, “Super! Some readers have taken pictures of them and the book at a race track and FB(ed) it. Will you?”

Um, ‘scuse me?

Fuck no, I won’t drive myself to the IMS with your 133-page “novel”, ask someone to take a picture of me with it, and then upload it to Facebook for you. First of all, I haven’t even read the book yet. But odds are it sucks. Second, what the hell? We are not friends. I am not a pushover.

Yoohoo! I’m Already Doing You a Favor

Is there anybody in there?

Writing a review (for free!) of a book that will likely never get a mention in Booklist or the Times might not be enough to qualify me for sainthood, but it is something you should kind of pretend to be grateful for. Say thank you, and move along. Or, if you prefer, return my kindness with a kindness of your own. But don’t keep asking me to give up more of my time to promote your pet project. It’s rude.

Reviews take time! (Cue The More You Know Star and some B-list TV personality.) First there’s the actual book reading, which, in the case of most self-published works, is excruciating. And then there’s writing, formatting, and publishing the review. Even my brief book reviews rob me of several precious hours. That’s time I could be copywriting for a real client or cleaning out my dog’s ears.

New Book Review Policy

There will be a fee for all future book reviews**. Prices are as follows:

Standard Review, completed in 6-8 weeks: $149
Expedited Review, completed in 4-6 weeks: $199

Both standard and expedited reviews will be a minimum of 400 words and will include publication of cover art, two links to the book’s Amazon page using my affiliate account, and a link to the author’s website or blog.

WARNING: Paid book reviews do not necessarily equal favorable reviews. In fact, future reviews will be brutally honest critiques of your work that could garner a lot of attention. But hey, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

Seriously, Em? No One Will Ever Pay That

Well, you’d be surprised.  But if I never write another review on Suess’s Pieces again, I’m okay with that.

Book reviews on Suess’s Pieces are changing effective immediately.
Authors and publicists go here to request a book review.

*Not all of them, mind you. Some of them were quite nice to deal with. But certainly there were enough to piss me off and prompt me to write this post.
**Previously agreed to free reviews will still be honored.

The Velvet Thorn

The Velvet Thorn. Olivia Villa-Real. 2011. iUniverse.

In the novel The Velvet Thorn by Olivia Villa-Real, readers meet Bella Mariposa, a talented singer and composer who happens to be married to a real scumbag. Daniel Miranda, Bella’s jerk husband, is the kind of guy you’ll love to hate—the kind of guy that thinks sex is an obligation and that dinner should always be ready at the precise moment he walks through the door.

In an attempt to restore her marriage and provide a better home life for herself and her children, Bella enrolls in a spiritual retreat in Hollywood. It is there that she meets Father Derek Lindenberg, a man wholly devoted to his Catholic priesthood. At the retreat, the two establish a strong connection and, of course, eventually fall in love.

It’s not a particularly original story line, truth be told. Having a priest fall in love with a beautiful young woman has been done before. (The Thorn Birds? Anyone?) However,  it doesn’t make such a plot line any less intriguing.

Influenced by her own life experiences, Villa-Real has done an acceptable job of exploring how love and relationships can test a person’s devotion to the unyielding rules of religion and religious society in The Velvet Thorn.

Buy Books, Spread Literacy

Pin It on Pinterest