When Soliciting Book Reviews, Professionalism Matters By Yocheved Golani

Some authors shoot themselves and their publishers in the wallet with naivete about the book-reviewing industry. The problem is two-fold.

Printed matter and E-books are suffering dwindling book reviewing opportunities. The print and online news industry has limited space for book reviews. Priority goes to ads and news stories generating significantly more revenue. With over a million new book titles published yearly, the competitive reading market is a publicity challenge for authors.

Self-imposed ignorance about the book reviewing process is inexcusable. Publications and professional groups for writers inform developing and experienced authors of realistic expectations regarding book writing and reviewing. Some authors, however, don’t pay attention to them.

Some authors even fail to invest appropriate energies in their works; Poorly prepared manuscripts damage author credibility even for experts in their field. Some authors expect reviewers to know what the author “meant” versus what they wrote. Missing in action or poorly assembled information packets lose points. Hostile packets ëtell” reviewers what to write. They all worsen matters. The writer’s chosen path of incompetence, pocked by unfavorable or nonexistent book reviews, leads from low to zero sales.

Though my book reviews have appeared in online and print media worldwide, I encounter authors unprepared for the book reviewing process in many ways. Some want to charge me for review copies (the industry standard is for publishers or authors to supply review copies gratis). Others cringe at my objective competence in identifying faults with their books.

The misspelled, grammatically challenged message below illustrates the lack of professionalism that shows up far too often in the publishing and book reviewing world:

Thanks Yocheved for preparing the review, and having It published. Your review has a few mistakes, but then if things weren’t clear in The book you couldn’t help but getting a bit mixed up. Actually I had a very proper English woman who did the editing. It wasn’t the best match, She is very British and I am [not] and green to the publishing editing world.

Afterwards I had another Englishman from Manchester who did the page layout, a stickler for Chicago Manuel type editing and he drove me crazy. I was also short on time since I wanted it printed in time for my mother’s 100th birthday, and then I fell, fractured my arm, and couldn’t work. All in all, I’m not sorry I did it, and next time I’ll work harder, get a better editor, and wont rush. The book was self published, *** is the name I chose for my own press. I’m sorry you didn’t show it to me before it was published, it may have helped produce a better review.

The author admits to choosing speed over competence, then blames me for noting her inferior, unprofessional work (my role as a book reviewer) while admitting that I had an inferior text to judge.

An author myself, I was appalled when a venerable journalist approached me with a “Pay me to write good reviews for you” sales promotion plan. I declined the dishonorable services. Favorable fake book reviews abound for other writers, however.

Dr. Yoel Finkelman’s valid remarks about book review editors appear below. A lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University and author of Strictly Kosher Reading: Popular Literature and the Condition of Contemporary Orthodoxy (Academic Studies Press), his comments are from an informal exchange between us:

  • Professional book-review editors will try to make sure that the reviewer and author don’t have a history of either friendship or enmity that can cloud the objectivity and honesty of the review.
  • It’s in everybody’s best interest to see books reviewed, and publishers will often provide a number of review copies for free to potential reviewers, whether in magazines, newspapers, blogs, or wherever.
  • Even negative reviews can benefit publishers and authors, since what makes a book problematic for one reviewer might make it perfect for a different reader. It’s often true that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

As for the book reviews I prepare (I only address specific genres), I note whether or not the author’s research was competent, if an engaging writing style was or was not used, and if a consistency of thought complements the read. I will categorically alert readers as to why someone’s take on a particular subject is wrong, misguided or a con job. I’ll reference the quality of the illustrations, the paper and the fonts. Reading eyes need to be able to focus on reading material; That’s why some bookworms prefer paper to pixels.

Authors need the “Write Perspective.” Professionalism matters.

In addition to being a book reviewer in several publications, Yocheved Golani authored highly acclaimed “It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge“. It addresses and solves many needs of disabled, ill and recovering readers. Certified in Counseling Skills and an engaging public speaker, Yocheved Golani is presently on a speaking tour. She recently launched the online Refua (Healing) Radio Show, a companion to her book, It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge.
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