Recipes for Success: Review Policies

Hello, bloggers and reviewers! I hope you caught last week’s debut Recipes For Success post about first steps to creating a book blog. This week Kate, Ex Libris blogress, returns to share her Recipe for Success for crafting a great Review Policy. Share her tips with your fellow reviewers on Twitter using #NGextras.

Next week Kate will be sharing some tips on focusing your blog’s content.

Recipes for Success aims to give new bloggers and reviewers helpful information, tools, and best practices to help facilitate your growth and effectiveness as reviewers. Check back often for tips and tricks from the insiders!

Ex Libris

Review Policies

If you look around other book blogs, you will probably see review policies.  Some are very short and listed on the main page, others are long and legal.  You don’t have to have a review policy, but as you blog more and more, you might find that it helps you and the authors that might be contacting you, have a better understanding of what you review.

What is a review policy?
It’s a written policy that outlines your blog’s standards for review and the rights you reserve as a reviewer.  Sounds kind of hard-core, doesn’t it?  I have tweaked my policy a few times as issues have come up.  It was really an attempt to communicate effectively with those that want me to review.  So, I think that’s a good way to look at it.  It saves everybody time if you outline your preferences, requirements and general information.  Below you will see what I have observed to be some of the most common components of a review policy.

a) Are you currently accepting books for review? There might be times when you feel too overwhelmed, and you can say “thanks, but no thanks”.  I have even seen some blogs that tell people to come back in a specific amount of time (3 months, in the Fall) when books for review will be accepted again.

b) Disclosure.  Most review policies say something like “If I accept this book from you, it is not a guarantee that I will review it.  If I do review it, it will be an honest review.”  I think this is an important thing to say because it is your right to read a book and not review it.  I am a fan of putting it all out there, so the more honest you are, the better you can manage everyone’s expectations.

c) Do you accept payment for reviews and will you accept gifts?  There has been some controversy about this recently.  Some sites do charge for reviews.  Whatever your opinion of the ethics of that issue is, if you want to be clear that you do not accept payment for reviews, this is the place to say so.  If you do charge for reviews, this is also the place to outline your process and costs. What about gifts? Some publishers send gifts.  Sometimes those gifts go way beyond a t-shirt or a finished copy.  If you decide not to accept gifts, meaning anything outside of an ARC or finished copy, you can state that in the review policy if you wish to address the issue.

d) What do you review?  This is a great place to list the genres you review.  For a while, even though horror and mystery were not on my review list, I was still getting a lot of emails asking me to review their horror and mystery titles.  So, I put a little note saying, “I do not review these genres”.  It helped, I must say, but whether you get really specific is up to you.

e) Self-Published authors.  Most of the emails I get from the authors are for self-published books.  This is a huge new area of the book market and there are a lot of bloggers who review self-published books.  There are also a lot that refuse to review self-published.  Everyone has his or her reasons and this really isn’t the place for that debate, but I am of the opinion that whatever your self-pub policy is, it needs to be clear.  Self-published authors are largely on their own, working really hard and trying to drum up as much publicity as possible.  They don’t have a large publisher with a publicity department, so I guess that’s why I tried to craft a policy that gave very clear guidelines and standards for what I would and would not accept.  Whatever you choose to do, I think it’s important to remember something I have learned after my many years working in Human Resources: be polite, be clear, and don’t apologize for your decision.  This is your space and it is your right to accept or not accept books.

If you’re not sure where to start, look at some of the blogs you read and get ideas from them.  Just make sure that that the policy you write is yours, unless you find a blogger kind enough to let you use their wording. Don’t forget that if something doesn’t work, you can change it until you find a policy that fits you and your blog.

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