Discussion: Book Review Request Forms

As I cryptically hinted at yesterday I will be changing the way I accept book review requests in the future to avoid such a horrible backlog.  How will I do this?  Well, instead of leaving authors with no guidelines which they seem to take as an invitation to be lazy, I will make them fill out a form.  Yes, some authors will rail against the injustice of it all and how much time it will take, but those are the authors I really wouldn’t want to review anyway.  If you can’t follow my rules, I’m not going to read your book.  Plain and simple.

So my question for you guys is this: What would the ideal book review request form include?  Would you ask authors for things like the genre, book blurb, target age group, etc?  Do you think a review request form is the way to go?  Or should I be trying something else to avoid my backlog as well as badly behaving authors?

15 comments

  1. Tammy Sparks

    The first thing I think you should do is start a calendar and limit yourself to how many requests you’ll accept each month. Let’s say that number is four, then start filling in books as the requests come in. I would ask the author when the book is coming out and review it in that month. If we’re mostly talking about indie authors, then their book is probably out already. When January fills up, you simply tell the next request that you won’t be able to review their book until Feb.

    Honestly, I read indies on my blog for a year before I realized they were ruling my life and I didn’t have the time to read anything else. So I don’t read them at all anymore. But so glad you do! Indie authors need support too.

    I would also ask for page length and a link to the author’s website. If an indie author isn’t on Twitter or doesn’t have a website, they aren’t serious about being an author.

    • Carrie Slager

      Thank you so much for the suggestions! I love the idea of only doing a certain number of reviews per month; that’s far more manageable than my current system. Then I’m free to read the books I want as well as help indie authors. And thank you for the social media suggestions; you’re absolutely right.

  2. The Masquerade Crew (@MasqCrew)

    You know I love forms. I wouldn’t survive without them. You could ask just what you need to weed people out, but the more you ask, the less the author will have to give you when you accept the request.

    As long as you clearly state that filling out the form does not indicate that you will read a book, then you can theoretically keep submissions open. If an author doesn’t hear from you, then that means you didn’t accept their request. Of course, you could also put a message on the request page saying that you aren’t taking requests at the moment.

    However you use the form, I think it will help tremendously. Of course, if you ever want to completely ignore the problems, you are more than welcome to join us.

    • Carrie Slager

      One day I may take you up on your offer, but I want to try this form out in the new year. What you’re saying makes sense and I love Tammy’s idea of just doing a certain number of indie reviews in a given month. Once all of my slots for the year are filled up, that’s it.

  3. adtrosper

    Genre, length (either pages or words), link to the book on Amazon so you can take a peak inside and scan the first couple of pages if you want (not something you have to do, but it should be available if you decide you want to), book blurb, author website, FB page, and Twitter (or any combination of social links you think a serious author should need). Also be blunt about what you expect in a book (editing, formatting, etc) because where it should be obvious, sadly it isn’t.

    A form is good. Anyone who finds it too much effort doesn’t think their book is worth that much.

  4. Scatty

    I think a form is a great idea and I’d love to see what you come up with. I personally request authors to give a blurb or excerpt of the book. There have been far too many instances where the synopsis sounded awesome and promises but the writing was just plain awful.

    • Carrie Slager

      I don’t think I’ll do an excerpt, but I like the idea of a blurb and a link to Amazon. That way if I feel like it I can read an excerpt. If it’s a proven author that I’ve read good reviews about then I may not read the excerpt, but it’s nice to have that Amazon link option.

  5. Jemima Pett

    I’ll echo what the others have said. You put the hoops out, we jump through them if we would really like you to review our books.
    I think a link to a sample is a good idea so you can check it out, also things you want to screen out – do you accept all genres? Do you want to know what genre it is so you can pick (open answer, may show whether they are sure). Or do you want to screen certain ones and prefer others in which case a check box would be best and include ‘other’ for things you don’t mind.
    It would be kind to only ask for information you really want, though, rather than have us fill in a major essay just to see how much we want to be considered by you 🙂
    Just my 2c!

    • Carrie Slager

      Good idea on the genres. I’m thinking of just having my form on my book review criteria page at the bottom so theoretically they’ve read what genres I accept before filling it out.

      I definitely won’t make authors fill out a major essay, though. That’s unfair. I will, however, ask for some more detailed information than I get when my requests are just wide open.

  6. Rebecca Vance

    I am quite interested by this topic, I have the same backlog problem, and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about it. I am so backlogged, I am not sure how I will ever get caught up. I have been considering not even taking requests anymore if and when I finally do. I have been contacted by a couple of publishers that are listed on Net Galley and since I am also listed as a reviewer there and have gotten many of the galleys through them, I could pick and choose solely through them. I think that is what I am going to do. I could spend 24/7 on reviewing and that isn’t what I want. I do enjoy it, but lately it has been more of a job. I haven’t been able to read for pleasure for a long time and I miss that. I also am trying to write my own debut novel, and it is hard finding the time to fit everything in. If I were to do a form however, I would not make the mistake I did when I first started, saying yes to all genres. I would also never say yes to all. I would have a disclaimer that I would CONSIDER their book for review, but never promise it. By dong it the way I did, it not only backlogged my queue, but it put me in the position of reading books that I had no interest in. As much as we may believe that we can review each book on the way it is written, that is really not true. If you have no interest in the subject matter, it will color how you feel about the book. I also like the idea of knowing either the word count or page number.

    Good luck to you, no matter what you decide to do. 🙂

    • Carrie Slager

      Thanks for your thoughts, Rebecca. I hope you have more time to devote to your debut novel now that you’ve sorted out the submissions problem. The disclaimer is a great idea and I’ll definitely use it.

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  8. Shannelle C.

    Actually, a form (for me) is easy easier than making a complete email. In fact, if I was an author, I would be a little happier, because I can just copy paste a lot of stuff instead of making one big coherent email.

    As for what a person should add, I make it a point to ask for an excerpt of the book. I’ve done okay with self-published authors, and I’ve encountered synopsises that sound promising, but after reading a small sample, I know it’s not for me.

    • Carrie Slager

      I’m still not sure about the excerpt, but if I’m having doubts and they have provided a link to Amazon I can seek out the excerpt if need be. And you’re right that in some ways as long as the form isn’t like a long-form census, a form is easier.

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