On Reviewing

If you email us and ask us to review your book, we expect your book to be done.

I don’t mean that in some subsequent print run you can’t change a word or correct a typo. But if you send a book asking for a review, and then, because someone else somewhere in the world didn’t like your first chapter and you then write a new first chapter and mail that out so that it can be reviewed instead, you aren’t looking for a review. You’re looking for a critique.

And a critique isn’t the same thing as a review.

Don’t send me your book for review until you’re done. Because I read finished books to review here, and when I’m done and ready to share my thoughts, I post them on Spinetingler, I don’t take them down, and I’m not going to read the 115th draft of your “book” that you subsequently produce.

It’s really just an fyi. If you’re asking anyone at Spinetingler for a review, it should mean the book is done. If it isn’t, you’re asking for feedback or a blurb for a book scheduled to be published. And I don’t do either through Spinetingler.

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Sandra Ruttan

Sandra Ruttan is the bestselling author of SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, HARVEST OF RUINS and The Nolan, Hart & Tain series. For more information, visit her website: http://sruttan.wordpress.com/

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About Sandra Ruttan

Sandra Ruttan is the bestselling author of SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, HARVEST OF RUINS and The Nolan, Hart & Tain series. For more information, visit her website: http://sruttan.wordpress.com/

7 Replies to “On Reviewing”

  1. I think it’s about to become a bigger problem moving forward, as more people go POD and self-published.

    We had a pain-in-the-ass issue with a review Brian did on BSC of a short story. He had some major criticisms of the story, which was published at an ezine (a site you would know of, on a site run by someone you’d know). The author went ballistic and many months after the fact was still pestering BSC to take the review down. He said it was a draft of the story, and the story was subsequently revised and changed on the site, so that the version that was critiqued is no longer published there.

    Here’s my beef with that: own whatever the fuck you put out there. Now, if it’s your blog and you accidentally hit the ‘publish’ button when you meant to hit ‘save draft’ and three hours later realize your mistake and unpublish it, that’s one thing. If you have a story online for a lengthy period of time and the minute someone tells you you aren’t hot shit, don’t pretend it was a draft. I freakin’ well hate online critiquing on people’s blogs as it is, for reasons such as this, but if a story is published on a zine it should be done.

    Own your shit.

    So anyway, said writer is absolutely banned from Spinetingler. But beyond that, I actually got a book that I started to read, for purposes of review, and yes, you guessed it. I received the new first chapter in the mail yesterday.

    I’m no longer reading the book. There are too many really good finished books out there that I don’t have time to read. You want me to edit your book, you can have the balls to ask upfront for that because it’s what you’re after, or hire me… But don’t ask me to review your book on our site. Be a professional.

    (And the site that published said story above hasn’t been considered for Spinetingler Awards since. That kind of BS is the reason people don’t take zines seriously.)

  2. Ah, I remember the review and the story. And I agree, good or bad, you need to suck up the criticism, hopefully learn something from it, and make sure your shit’s done before sending it out.

    With ARC’s going out for review, it seems so unprofessional to send out corrections. Even if it’s a small press or POD, sending out corrected chapters is basically saying that not only is your author sloppy, but so is your editorial staff.

  3. Yes, Sandra, I think you’re right this has the potential to be a bigger problem and the methods for online publication sure make it easy.

    I recently posted two short stories to Smashwords so I could make them available in a bunch of different e-book formats. The process was quite easy and took very little time.

    But right there on the page where I uploaded the stories was the option to, “upload new version.” And for one of the stories there was a formatting problem and I had to upload a new version – and that procss was really easy and took no time at all.

    Now, this was very helpful for making sure the upload works, but it will be awfully tempting for people to upload new versions.

  4. And Keith, what really frosted my cookies was that it wasn’t an ARC. It was presented to me as a finished copy. There’s a whole different etiquette between ARCs and finished copies – you aren’t supposed to quote from ARCs and it isn’t uncommon to request a finished copy before making a final review. But if you give us a “finished” copy? Geez.

    John, like you said, it’s great for genuine mistakes like formatting issues, but awfully tempting if people want to produce new versions. I’m not opposed to new versions if it’s promoted as such. I mean, I’m always afraid of opening my books and seeing a mistake, because mistakes happen. And it’s my job, and the publishers, to try to catch that before the book is printed. Anything done afterwards is a correction, and that’s going to be public knowledge.

  5. I’m stunned by this. My publishers have sent out ARCs, but these were invariably versions that were past the revision and copy-editing stages. There couldn’t have been much wrong with them at that point. Certainly, that was well past the point where the publisher would have accepted a new first chapter. In fact, the copy-edited ms. usually carries the warning that no more rewrites are possible at this point.

  6. I.J. I always screen books if I don’t recognize the publisher to try to figure out if it’s a new imprint or if it’s a new small press, or if it’s POD or self-published, because of issues like this. BSC has an active policy against self-published books, but I’ll consider them on a case by case basis… But probably not at all anymore after this. If I don’t recognize the press I’ll probably outright pass now. We get offered ARCs from publicists, publishers and authors, and the latter isn’t a red flag because authors are increasingly responsible for their own promotion, but unfortunately, it opens the doors to issues you can’t foresee.

    Really, this is the kind of thing that makes self-publishing disrespected. People clearly rushing to print well before the material is ready or has been properly scrutinized.