A Review To Ranting

Isn’t it funny how sometimes it’s the little things that can get to you as opposed to the bigger things? It’s those little things that can build up along side the big and then cause you to have a mini meltdown. Well that is sort of what happened on Sunday and I thought as in the main the mini things were blog related I would share them with you all. The bigger things aren’t blog related but I will share them later so that you can see where I am coming from. (This isn’t an ‘I’m quitting’ or naval gazing post by the way, it’s more a taking a step back thinking and explaining kind of post.) This is one of my longest posts ever but please do read it, your thoughts as ever much appreciated.

Recently things have been really crazy at Savidge Reads HQ, there was a health blip for me (and we aren’t talking colds, though I do have a rather impressive one now), then there was all the Home Office and visa stress for The Converted One and I, there was also the rather minimal (but delightfully crazy, I am not moaning) time of a mere month to get the longlist for The Green Carnation Prize. Then to top it all off everything went crazy at my day job and I was fighting for my position there whilst redundancies were being made left right and centre. My blog, your comments and other blogs were like little havens in a time of madness – they saw me through.

Now as Savidge HQ seems to be falling down around our ears; the bay window is leaking cos of the rain, we have been invaded with mice, the washing machine blew up, the bath and toilet have leaked and ruined the tiles – oh and now I am sick with a cold our boilers packed up. Yet still the blog and my books have remained a constant something I can focus on and forget about the other stuff (hence why it’s not been mentioned much till now).

Yet when I got two emails from publishers (who will remain nameless as I don’t think one of them meant it the way I took it, I am being self aware yet using it to illustrate a point, and I wouldn’t want to embarrass the other) last week I sat and thought ‘do you think all bloggers do is read books all day and write bookish thoughts?’ I felt like the fact we all have lives too seemed to have been forgotten. It made me have a little rethink as to ‘why do I blog, and what and who for?’ again I promise this isn’t navel gazing, nor is it an attack on publishers, honest.

The first email was from a publisher who sent me one of their big releases, a book they have all been going delightfully doolally for at their offices, unsolicited but with a lovely letter and all that jazz. I had sent an email back saying thanks am very busy but will try and read it in the next week or so, I’m not sure when or when it might appear on the blog. Imagine my surprise when I got a rather demanding, it could be the way I read it, email asking for ‘a breakdown of your thoughts as you have STILL not written about it on your blog’ I think it was meant to be funny, I didn’t read it so.

I then had another email from a publisher who had sent me a press release by email about a book they thought was right up my street, it was but again I explained I had a lot on and if they needed it reviewed in a rush then thanks but no thanks, not in an arsey way either. This email simply was ‘you promised us you would review this soon…’ I actually said anytime between now and Christmas in this specific books case.I felt really guilty at both of these… initially… then I just felt cross.

I hadn’t asked for the first book (I don’t mind getting unsolicited books at all, as long as they come pressure and guilt free) and had agreed to read the other one ‘in my own time, when I could’ sending both publishers a kind email of thanks and explaining I didn’t know when I would read it or when it might appear on the blog. The latter in part is because I have noticed there seem to be trends for certain titles to get over blogged about and that seems less word of mouth more saturation, I digress. I then felt like I needed to get on with that review of the book I read and bloody hurry up with reading the other one. And then I thought ‘hang on… stop, whose blog is this?’ along with ‘but I really don’t want to read that book right now’.

So Sunday when I decided to give up my only fully free day in the last four weeks to doing both… only I sat and had a day off from the blog and brooded by myself over it all instead. (The lovely Novel Insights came for dinner and got her ear chewed off about it all too.) I then saw the lovely Kirsty of Other Stories post and that gave me a further kick up the bloggish bum and so I have come up with a few decisions, though they are still a work in progress.

First up I need to remember what this blog is for and why I am doing it. I am doing it because I love books and want to share that love with other people but mainly for myself. This is my online book diary. Therefore ‘oh blimey now I need to devote a few hours to reviewing it and doing it justice’ and then putting pressure on myself. This does mean I am taking an extended sabbatical from book group, but the sabbatical is wobbly, I may end up going to them apart from when I am in Brazil of course.

Secondly I need to come up with a review policy. I haven’t had one until now and that’s been a bit of an oversight I think. I need to think about the wording over the next few days but the gist will be; feel free to send me your books (and especially your catalogues and press releases) as long as they come guilt and time frame free, I may review them in days – it might take me a month or twelve, no pressure please. (Actually nearly all the publishers I deal with are already ok on this front but it would be nice to set it in stone somewhere.)

Thirdly I think I am going to stop reviewing books (I call them book thoughts to myself but review seems a better label on the blog) I feel a bit on the fence about, because writing my thoughts on books I want to devote my spare time writing about books I love, and occasionally loathe if any truly get up my spout, and doing them justice.

And finally, blimey its been an epic post today, I need to go back to reading what I love both new and also older and reading them on a whim (apart from with The Green Carnation which will be over a much extended period next year and therefore much easier) and more importantly go back to reading in my own time frame. I have noticed I have been reading some books really fast so I can tell you all about them and that is detrimental to the books and to my reading time and experience I think. This could end up with fewer posts but that’s fine, this isn’t my job I shouldn’t have deadlines and pressures I have enough of those elsewhere, we all do.

So I am going to have a good old think over the next few days and along with my review policy come up with some sort of Savidge Guidelines to keep myself in check and remind me what it is I do this for. Any thoughts or advice please?

25 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts

25 responses to “A Review To Ranting

  1. I know how you feel, Simon, and I think you’re right in trying to establish a policy and guidelines for yourself – I’m part way there with mine and I’ve found it has helped a lot, but some refinement is still needed.
    Good luck!

  2. Dot

    Oh dear, it sounds like you are having a right old time of it! I remember being so excited when the first publisher asked me to review one of their books and I still get excited now but I think it is a very fine line as you can soon feel pressurised to organise your reading to suit their needs rather than yours. I feel guilty every now and again too for feeling pressurised as I know there are so many great bloggers out there who would jump at the opportunity to be sent free books but I made the decision that I have to remember that I started my blog for ME in order to read and review what I enjoy. I no longer read unsolicited books that don’t appeal to me as I don’t feel that I would do them justice in my review.
    Hope that everything gets sorted out, there’s always something isn’t there!!

  3. Annabel

    Dear Simon, gosh – you’ve had a hard time recently. I’m also full of snot, and I hope your cold and health blip don’t last. My fingers and toes are crossed on the job front too – that’s mega-stressful which doesn’t help.

    Your thoughts on a review policy sound imminently sensible – I think I should do mine better too. Those publishers who pestered you for your thoughts should give the blogging community a little space – surely a series of reviews/thoughts from a variety of bloggers spread over months/a year would keep their book more in the mind of those who read blogs … anyway we often highlight the new arrivals in our incoming posts, so it’s not as if they haven’t got a mention somewhere.

    Although I think most of us blog for ourselves as a form of therapy(!), I mean a reading journal, I do relish the dialogue with commenters, but taking the pressure off posting everyday may refresh you. Personally, I don’t care whether posts are called reviews, book thoughts or whatever, as long as they engage me.

    I’m totally in agreement with choosing your own reading, although I have discovered books I’d never have touched through making myself read them for book group etc. But there are only 24 hours in a day, so keep the majority your choice I say.

    Excuse my rambling, but you did ask. Annabel. x

  4. Simon, you have a big heart and I think people are taking advantage of that. Unless these publishers are paying you to write reviews, you do not owe anybody ANYTHING. About three or four months ago, there was a big hubbub over here on our side of the pond on this very subject. This is our hobby, it should be fun, and sometimes you just need to step away and put it in perspective. If they get shitty with you, offer to send the damn thing back to them. But you are nobody’s bitch. You should be able to enjoy your real life and read what you want. If I were there I’d give you a hug.

  5. My take on this is that if you actually ask a publisher for a review copy of a specific book, there is an obligation on your behalf to review it promptly, but if a book arrives unsolicited, I don’t think the publisher can make any demands on you at all.

  6. sorry to hear your woes ,I often lament lack of books I get sent but then remember I blog for myself so on whole prefer to choose my own books ,I have a basic review policy ,hard as I tend to be a positive person so don’t do many negative reviews ,good luck with writing one all the best stu p.s hope everything sorts itself out soon we went with out boiler middle of last winter very annoying

  7. Take a deep breath, Simon, well as deep as you can with your cold. Of course this is YOUR blog and YOUR journal and YOUR therapy and YOUR spare time and no one can tell you what to read or write. I love that you read/review older books. Why should you waste time reading or reviewing something you didn’t much care for, unless it’s to get a snarky rant off your chest, of course? I’m all for you aiming to please your readers and yourself instead of the publishers. Carry on!

  8. Simon – Bravo! This is your blog and your time and effort go into reading books and writing about them. I think a review policy is a brilliant idea and I applaud your response to those publishers.

    I decided the first time I got one of those “we see you haven’t reviewed “Blah Blah” and we think..” emails that I would no longer accept books from publishers or even from LibraryThing or Goodreads give-aways. There are too many great books out there, both old and new, and it was not worth clogging my over-stuffed brain with stress and quilt.

  9. It doesn’t help to have to worry about these things on top of everything else. I don’t think there’s any fun in reading if there’s a lot of pressure. And you’re right, this is your blog and you’re doing it for yourself. Of course we love reading it, but then you do have a full-time job and I’m impressed with the number of posts you write. I think if you’ve explained to the publisher regarding your time constraints, it should be good enough. But maybe a review policy will help clarify things:)

  10. Whenever I get an email from a publisher I always respond honestly – that I have a full time job and numerous commitments outside of work – and that I will read what they are sending me, if I want to read it, when I get around to it. If they want something read by a deadline, I won’t take it.

    Initially I was really excited by free books but after a while they started piling up and I felt so pressured about finding time to read them, that all the joy of having free books was soon replaced with worry and stress and regret at having accepted them. So now I hardly ever say yes to such offers. I read a book a week if I’m lucky – as I have so little time to read, the time I do spend reading is precious, and I’d rather read what I want than have my choices dictated to me.

    This blog is your hobby. Once it stops being fun, you know you have to put your foot down and make some changes somewhere. Start saying no! It’s very liberating. It’s your life and you are in control – you don’t run this blog as a marketing exercise for the publishing industry, so why should you bow down to its demands?!

  11. One thing you should add to your review policy is: “I may never read or review your book.” and maybe even “…and if I hate your book, you may be glad I don’t review it…” The other thought I have is, why not just stop accepting unsolicitied material? Wouldn’t that allow you more time to follow your bliss in whatever form you choose? Book wise, it would give you more time to follow recommendations from Granny Savidge and other book bloggers. I hate having expectations hang over me so much I have avoided the publisher gravy train entirely. Okay, one exception, when Maggie O’Farrell’s people emailed, I jumped at the chance. But whatever you decide, I agree with some of the others here. This is your blog, you can do whatever you want, and everyone who doesn’t like it can take a flying leap.

  12. P.S.: I can’t wait to hear what you think about On the Beach. If I am not mistaken this will be your first Shute?

  13. Like Thomas I have avoided the ‘publisher gravy train’ LOL Not that I have anything against ppl that do receive books from them btw

    Its just that I have my own personal reading agenda and at the moment that does not included new releases (this could change in the future) The moment that it becomes a chore or not fun anymore is the moment that I stop doing it (I say that now)

    Chin up, I’m sure your find a balance 🙂

  14. I can agree with all your points. Sometimes you have to step back and think who I am doing this for, this applies to all parts of your life not just book blogging.
    When I first started blogging, I thought would it not be great to get all these free books to read – then I stopped and thought – why put myself under pressure for reading them. I only belong to Amazon Vine and that is enough for me – and they do not pressure you in anyway.
    My blog is for just letting all my thought jumbling around my head out somewhere. I still review on Amazon first before my blog.

    Reading and blogging should be an enjoyment not a chore!

    I look forward to whichever path you decide to take this blog.

  15. Oh dear, I don’t blame you for feeling down in the dumps … and annoyed by those publishers’ emails.

    I had a recent change in direction at Paperback Reader too, posting my intent to return to my reading roots – less new titles and more whim (for the win)!

    Keep your chin up; at the end of the day, if the publishers get in a tizzy with you then they end up losing out on reviews from one of the most high-profile of book bloggers so their loss.

  16. kay

    I can only imagine how you feel, and I think it is important for you to set rules on how you want to manage YOUR blog. For most of us, our blogs are little corners of our lives free from the daytime “burdens”, and it shouldn’t come with any pressure.

  17. It sounds like you have already thought about what it is YOU really want from your blog Simon – now it’s just a case of getting that across to others!! I can only imagine the sort of pressure you are under but I think when you are feeling overwhelmed with all that life throws your way (good and bad) it is sometimes good to go back to basics – look at what you value and want from your blog and keep on track that way. Maybe (and I hate this sort of management terminology!) write a mission statement or overiding goal for your blog that comes from what you want it to be. Good luck – I hope things settle down a little for you soon!

  18. Louise

    I don’t have my own blog but I do enjoy reading several book blogs and it has opened up my reading choices massively over the past couple of years. I have to admit I was completely innocent of the idea of bloggers recieving books from publishers and being pressured into writing reviews. This has somewhat tainted my view of the blogs that I read (in a similar way to how I felt when I discovered that publishers pay hefty sums to get on the Richard and Judy booklist). I think it’s a real cheek of publishers to put you under this pressure, your blog should be for enjoyment not another chore.

  19. I agree with all these people 🙂 It’s very liberating to take things back in your own reading direction – it might mean you’re considered a little less high-profile with publishers (this is a sacrifice I made!) and some will stop sending things even when you want them, but it’s definitely worth it!

  20. Oh gosh Simon. First of all, I am so sorry to hear that everything has been going crazy there. I wish you best of luck with the house and your health and etc and etc.

    As to the books – I think you were very clear with the publishers, from the sounds of it, so don’t beat yourself up about it. I try not to give firm time commitments myself. If I do, I will do everything I can to meet it… but if it’s just a read sometime, I will read it when I darn well please 😀 I recently had a thought like this myself. I was beating myself up to get through review copies and then all of a sudden realized that I hadn’t agreed to any time commitment, so I could probably safely read some other fun books, or take a night off once or twice, and no one would fire me. In fact, they can’t, because this is really just a hobby!

    I think you have it right. Do it for you, don’t stress yourself, it is really just fun!

  21. Do whatever you want and don’t beat yourself up over the decision too much. Life’s little practical digs are taking enough from you right now anyway. Loved what the ever-plucky Sandy said. And really liked this from Thomas -“…and if I hate your book, you may be glad I don’t review it…” – because that is certainly how I feel. When one particular publicist was pestering me about a review for a book I read from him, I finally had to write back and share my opinion of how loathsome I thought the book was. Silence followed. All for fun. Just the fun.

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  23. Really interesting post Simon. Blogging is a powerful tool for publicity and I’ve been happy to take advantage of that and ask for the occasional book that I’ve particularly wanted to read but couldn’t afford (the day job barely pays my bills) – it’s felt like a fair swap but I’m aquisitive and have to be careful not to fall into eyes bigger than stomach mode.

    The thing is you do this for free and not for freebies if someone wants to pressure you they need to make a more attractive offer, but until it becomes your paying job it has to be your rules all the way.

    There are a handful of book bloggers I read (and Savidge reads is on that list) who could if they chose probably become commercial brands and what’s more do it without losing their integrity, but meanwhile this is your hobby and should be respected as such.

  24. Pingback: Review Policy « Savidge Reads

  25. Thanks for all your comments and support I have sorted myself out somewhat (well I had until I got sick though actually having no pressure on reading when I cant has been brilliant) and am feeling much better with it all at the moment!

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