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An unusual review request I have recieved

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Chilari, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    As you might know, I have a blog on which I occasionally review fantasy novels. I have an email address by which authors can contact me, and get about two or three emails a month with requests. About half the time, it's a book I will say no to because it isn't fantasy (which I specify on my blog as being what I review) or for some other reason such as, having seen the sample, I don't think is worth my time.

    This morning I received an email asking me to review the first section of a novel - attached to the email in a Word document with the file name "first part of novel" - which the author asked me to review, and upon which review they would base their decision to continue writing. This novel was described as being the story of the life of the author's late mother-in-law (though "biography" was never used) and was clearly not a fantasy. No further description about what make this woman's life interesting was given.

    With little time, I replied merely that I don't review unpublished books and I only review fantasy, and wished the author luck in their endeavours.

    But this really is the mos bizarre review request I have ever seen. I am familiar with requests in which the author doesn't tell me their name or the name or their book, requests for books which aren't even fantasy (one was an action thriller with paranormal and sci-fi elements), requests in which the author makes it clear that they think they are doing me a favour by gifting me a free book to fill up my apparently boring life, and requests which the author clearly hasn't proofread, with a blurb they've obviously just composed specifically for the email rather than using their normal marketing blurb. I got one last week which didn't even address me by name and asked for a review of the book and/or a guest blog spot, without providing an introduction or the blurb until after the email signature; the blurb was generic and plot focused, and the bio included the immortal line "I enjoy spending time with my wife and family" (because nobody likes spending time with loved ones, right?). I didn't even reply to that one.

    This request, though, is new. Not remotely related to fantasy, but also not even finished. I'm not sure what the author was thinking to ask a stranger with a blog on an unrelated genre to critique their novel, and state that they'll base their continued writing of the novel on such a critique.

    The best part? I have two blog posts on my blog about how to ask a book blogger for a review (one by direct contact, the other for those asking on a forum). And not one piece of advice in either of them was followed.

    I might write a more clear, refresh blog post to account for these bizarre requests.

    Has anyone else receieved an unusual request? How did you react?
     
  2. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    I've never had anything quite as bizarre as that. I think beginning writers, though, actually have no idea of what the normal processes are. They don't understand the differences between a review, a critique, a beta read, editing... or anything, really. Biography writers are probably particularly prone to this, because they're not really 'writers' as such, they just have an interesting relative whose story they want to commit to paper. So they're outside the loop, don't read forums like this, don't follow writers' blogs, haven't a clue.

    My policy with review requests is simple. If they haven't bothered to personalise the email and read my submission guidelines, I don't even bother to respond. Otherwise, I'll check out the book, but it must be published already, must be a genre and style that attracts me, must be professionally presented. More than one typo on the first two or three pages - out.

    I had one recently that had 3 grammatical errors on the first page. I wrote back pointing out that editing or at least a critique group would be in order. He replied that he was only 19, and English was not his first language (even more reason to hire an editor!), and he'd wait for more reviews and then decide if it was worth editing. And people wonder why self-publishing has such a bad name.
     
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  3. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Agreed - why should I bother to reply if the author hasn't bothered to find out my name from my website (which they have presumably visited in order to get my email address)?
     
  4. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I think honestly, some of those requests are just plain insulting. A reviewer is taking their time out to give a valid, honest review... it's like people feel as Chilari said, "are giving you a gift of their wonderful book" or something.

    I honestly wish I could get a book review, because I'm super proud of my book and believe in it so much, but it isn't published. So... yeah. But I think it's professional, presentable, and shiny. I can't believe the amount of books I've read that are presented before they're ready. I found someone on critters last year, that I was ready to crit for. In fact, she's published, with three or four books out there, and I read her chapter 23, which was really great. So I offered to read for her... only to be extremely disappointed.

    Her introductory chapter was a mess of erroneous description, even going so far as to have the MC sitting in front of a mirror, basically marveling about his looks and past... FOR FOUR PAGES!:confused:

    Unfortunately, it didn't get better from there. There's a bar brawl, where I heard about the two MCs beating up forty men... and every piece of furniture in the place smashed up. Yep. Each one was mentioned when it splintered. Over thirty times-- I counted.

    SO My suggestion in the end was to cut the first two chapters where nothing happened really. Now, you have to understand, the crit was a wall of red... all things I'd change and the reasons why... It took hours to do. She wrote back that her followers enjoyed that type of narrative and I didn't know what I was talking about. :eek:

    So I did the only thing I could... she became the first crit partner I ever had to break up with. I told her our continued relationship probably wouldn't be a benefit to either of is (since she wrote a total of 50 words of commentary in my first 5 chapters and then did the same with the next five).

    So anyways, that was my weirdest crit request. "Here, look at my book, but it's just the way I like it and anything you don't like, I'll explain away by saying my fans eat up that style and it's what they've come to expect from me..."
     
  5. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    It almost sounds like a phishing trip... but I can't think as for why...
     
  6. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    Yes, exactly. I read for pleasure, and that's fine, but a review takes time and effort to do properly, time I could spend doing other things.

    I can't imagine having a crit partner, in that way. The one thing I've discovered from Scribophile is that the more people look at your work, the better. Some of my chapters have had 20 critiques, and the range of opinions is astonishing, from 'don't change a thing' right through to red everywhere. And some just have a thing about adverbs or passive voice or whatever. But it's much easier to get some perspective on your writing when you've had many pairs of eyes looking at it.

    Sorry, wandering off-topic.
     
  7. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Well if I ever get this thing off to an agent and picked up... I'd love a review. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I read for a lot of people and I know how tedious it can be when your work is unappreciated. One of the reasons I always remind people who receive even negative crits from the showcase, that someone took their time, maybe an hour, maybe two... to write you that crit. They didn't do it to hurt your feelings. They could have done that in five seconds, not wasted an hour. So it's always the right thing to do, to thank someone for their negative crit... even if it stung. Because they did their best to help you and it's just plain rude not to respect their time... even if you plan to delete the crit and never ever look at it again. That being said... I never delete a negative crit. I'm not so self-assured I need to do that. I instead, file all crits away for the day I'm ready to absorb what the crit was saying.

    But still: ALWAYS THANK YOUR REVIEWERS AND CRITTERS. They work hard to help you (meaning those who request), not for their health.
     
    Chilari likes this.
  8. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    Sigh...

    But as to the thread topic, Chilari - I'm sure you've heard of the famous deluge of crap that agents and editors get. By deciding to open yourself up to submissions, you have 'opted in' for all of that. :) Congratulations on having a slushpile!

    On that note, in case you haven't seen it before I'll share this rather old article:

    Literary SF Publishers Announce International Slushpile Bonfire Day
     
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  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Sounds like someone trying to spam for free crits. Who probably doesn't know where else to go.
     
  10. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Wow. Some people just do not get it do they?
     
  11. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I had a similar experience to this on a critique site. To paraphrase the response, my English teacher said it was great, so you don't know what you're talking about. Then they launched a complaint to a site mod and the site deducted the critique credits from my account.

    That soured me on all critique sites.
     
  12. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Wow, that's quite a response. No gratitude, some people. They're just looking for validation and praise, not honest feedback.
     
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