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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Discussion: On the art of saying No [thank you]

This isn't the easiest post to write. Especially knowing that lots of people new to blogging may read it and think that I am rather ungrateful.

But I exercise my right to freedom of expression and I want to talk about the art of saying no. Let's face it. Saying no is not an easy thing to do. There are times in life when we are presented with choices and even the most determined of mind are tempted to say yes to something they know will do more harm than good.

Thankfully, saying yes to a review request will not endanger your health. It may endanger your sanity if you are a worrier like me and always aim to please. [Note this does not mean compromising by writing a lovely review when you thought the book was mediocre at best]. It means feeling that you need to have read and reviewed the book by release date. [Which is frankly impossible]. I miss the freedom of reading whatever I feel like. Don't misunderstand me, I do love being a reviewer for publishing houses. I guess in a rather vain way it makes me feel like my opinion is valued. The problem is more to do with the art of saying no.

How does one know when it is the right word?

I am at the point now where I am saying yes because I want to do one or two publicists a favour rather than actually read the book. As you can imagine this does not lead to me being a very happy Bookette because I am reading way outside of my comfort zone. I am also carrying a huge amount of guilt about the books that I haven't reviewed from months ago. Now most publicists do not mind at all if you don't read everything they send you. They appreciate your honesty when you say a book doesn't appeal to you. They say thank you when you email a review even if it is not a glowing recommendation of that title. But even if you are asked once where a review has got to you can't help feeling like you didn't hand your homework in on time.

What to do people?

The obvious answer is to learn the art of saying no. It is learning to politely ask to only be sent certain genres. (The ones you like obviously). But I believe it is time to go a step further and asked to be removed from some lists because at the heart of this is a girl who has a job, is trying to write a book and wants to read whatever she feels like and not what is due for release next week.

So tell me, what are your thoughts on this?

When you receive a review book do you email the publicist and let them know it has arrived safely and the date you expect to post the review? And how do you even know when it will be posted unless you are a blogger with a military ethic?

Please help!


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Excellent points and questions.
I definitely exercise my right to say no.
I usually also try to suggest some of my fellow bloggers who I think might be interested.
To answer your last question, I don't email the publicist till the review goes live. Then I merely drop them a link and thank you.

Cass (Words on Paper) said...

So far I've only received one surprise book for review. Review copies are a lot rarer in Australia, for obvious reasons. P: I wouldn't email the publisher until the review is up and you can link to it.

I've got a few review copies that I took on, but they keep getting pushed back because I'm "not in the mood to read it just yet". :/ So, for me, it's more like learning not to request review copies I'm not interested in, or even accepting them. I feel guilty, but what can I do if I'm not interested in reading it?


The Book Bug said...

As ever, an excellent post, Becky. (I'm really sorry I haven't been commenting. Your reviews and all of your posts have been fab. My life has been so busy at the moment. I hardly have any time to sleep. Writing, school, reviewing, school, travelling, school ...)

I must admit, I am incredibly bad at sending my reviews, getting them written and the end result is less than perfect. Indeed, a long way from it. (I like to think that that is all part of a robust charm, but that is probably not the case.) And I can hardly ever say no.

Even when I do not fancy a book that much, I won't say no in case I offend the publisher and they won't offer me anything ever again. My phobia of saying no probably also comes froma fear of being rejected, so I can imagine how it feels on the overside of the deal.

But from this point on, I am going to learn how to say no! (Politely, of course!) No, to anything I do not want. (Generally, my tactic of not replying is quite succesful, but whatever.)

Thanks for the excellent post. :D

Jesse Owen said...

I've said no to a number of review requests, when I first setup my blog I said no to all on the basis that I thought no-one would read them.

I accept a few of them now but only books I think I will like and I normally confirm when a book has arrived (if I've been told it's coming in the first place) and I always let them know when a review goes live. But I rarely tell them when to expect a review as normally I don't know.

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

I don't request review copies, but I am on some mailing lists. I don't ever really feel under pressure, as I never take on more than I can cope with. I want to be able to read what I want to read, and I'd never accept a book for review that I wasn't interested in reading. I don't see that it does anybody any favours if I'm reading something that I've no interest in. I turn down a lot more review requests than I accept, and I've never had a problem with that.

Right now I only have three books that I've accepted for review in November, and a couple for January so I'm free to read what I want to read for the rest of the time. If I receive 'surprise' review books in the post, then I don't feel obligated to review them by a certain date. If, however, I have accepted the book for review I'll review it in time for release.

I just send an email to the publisher with a link to my review once it's up on my blog. Blogging should always be fun, so do what you have to do to make keep it a fun past-time for you! :)

Becky said...

Juju, don't get me wrong I do say no. I seem to be saying no multiple times a week. Sometimes the things that I say are completely ignored by publicists. I get copies I have said no to.

But I want to make it very clear. Most of the publicists I work with have been nothing but amazing and respectful to me. I value my relationship with them. I think this just illustrates the point that the ones that I do not feel this way about, I should withdraw from reviewing for.

Cass, I think this is pretty normal. Most of my experience has been this way. But I guess as blogging takes off to rocket level publicists need to keep track of when they will receive reviews. In difficult economic times they need to produce the results of the costs of sending books to bloggers. I think I need to remind myself that sometimes.

Book Bug, do not apologise about commenting. I feel exactly the same. School is busy for me too but from the opposite side of the desk. Which is why I think we should celebrate the arrival of half term.
I'm glad this post was helpful to you.
And let it be known, your charm is why I think your blog is AWESOME!

Becky said...

Jesse, exactly!!! How can one possibly know the exact date a review will be posted. It is probably as difficult to calculate the birth of a baby. It is dependent on so many factors like my general mood, how much work I have to do, whether I am in the middle of a family crisis.

Leanna, you sound very organised. You would have a shock if you came into my office right now. Maybe I should post a few picks as evidence of this monumental problem. I still haven't read my September and October books but then most of them are just mailed without requests from the lists I am on. Hmmm...

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

@Becky - if only you knew! I am the most disorganised person in the world, which is why I have to limit the books I accept. I'm still fairly new to blogging though, so I reckon you get a lot more requests than I do. I hope you get it all sorted!

It has never occurred to me to let a publicist know when a review will be posted though - if it's one that I've accepted I tell them that it will be published around release date, and everybody is happy with that. So far, so good!

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

I don't really have much experience here yet, I'm afraid. I have received two books for review by the author herself and she didn't give me a date; in fact, she gave me more than enough time to read her novels, so her kindness prompted me to read and review her novels asap.:) I posted her the links once my reviews went public.

Now, I received my third book for review and the publishing house has given me more than a month to read it. They set a date for when my review has to be published, but they asked me if that was okay and if I wanted another date, which was really nice of them. But I guess you experience a lot more pressure, especially with the amount of books you receive for review.

My friend and fellow blogger has the same problem as you and she gave me one of the books she received for review, so I will read it, review it and she will guest-post my review on her blog. Perhaps you can do the same - ask fellow bloggers or friends to read a book or two for you and they can review them as guests on your blog. It should show the publicists that you care and want the books to be read and the word about them spread around, you just can't always do it yourself, what with the many obligations you have. I don't know, it's just a thought.:)

Library Mice said...

A great post and some very valid point. I read all the books I request, because obviously if I request them I need to read them! I only email the publicist once my review is live though. There is no way I would be ableto plan when my reviews are posted. It's bad enough having deadlines from Armadillo! As for unrequested review copies, some are great surprises that I love reading and reviewing, some not so. I never feel guilty about reading a book which I received unrequested. I am sure publishers are well used to it and understand that we can't read everything. After all, all of us have jobs/school/uni/children to look after, we are not "professional" reviewers and they are surely well aware of this.
Blogging shouldn't turn reading into a chore! The day that it does, I will email publishers to say I am giving up blogging and not to send me anything anymore.

Becky said...

Leanna, I always try to post reviews around the release date too but it does become difficult if there are five books released all in the same week. Thanks for your input.

Irena, I have asked my sister if she would help with the reviews but she doesn't want to read that way and I can understand. All my other bookish friends are bloggers. Maybe I do need someone to help me... I could send the books out in the Uk or Europe. Feel like volunteering? I could only team up with someone who wrote good quality balanced reviews.

Library Mice, yes exactly, if I keep on this way I will be having that day sooner rather than later. I have started to ask to be removed from lists so maybe this will help me. Thanks for sharing.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Becky, I'd love to help you! I'm experiencing a very peaceful period in my life, which means I have a lot of time for reading. Yay!:)So, if you're interested in teaming up, you can e-mail me. Just click on the CONTACT button on my profile, there's my e-mail address. And, thanks for liking my reviews...*blush*

Jo said...

After work experience at Simon & Schuster, and finding out not all books need to be read and reviewed, and the reviewes don't need to be posted by publication date, I do what you want to: I read what I want when I want. Including review books. The publicists still get their review links once it's posted, my blog isn't posting reviews of the same books as everyone else at the same time, and I feel less stressed. I've put it in my review policy.

Saying that, I still end up receiving more books than I have time to read. It has come to the point where on two separate occasions I have emailed all the publishers I review for asking them to temporarily stop sending me any books so I can catch up with the ones I've got - saying they can still contact me with news, etc to post. The publishers are normally very happy to do this. The second time round, I did say they could contact me with major titles for them, and I would decide, rather than having them just send me them.

Still, I receive review offers from other people: new publishers, authors etc. At those times, I decline explaining why, suggesting some other blogs who may be interested, and letting them know they can contact me in the future.

I think this tends to work, eventually, win-win for everyone. I thinkit also helps to remember that you're not the only bloger they know about. If you say no, there are oter bloggers they can contact. You're not letting them down, and they're asking for a review, not demanding. They don't mind hearing "no".

Just my two cents.

Lauren said...

As a fellow worrier, I relate to this post a lot. I'm saying no rather more these days too, but like you I receive surprise books and there are certain publicists I'll always say yes to. I think teaming up with other people is potentially a great solution, and if you do that I'll be interested to see how that works out.

I actually think I do pretty well at keeping up, but it's a trade off in terms of spontaneity. While asking to be removed from one or too mailing lists would free up more time, I like the reading outside my comfort zone that 'surprise' books offer. There are so many titles I've really enjoyed that I probably would've said no to. Honestly, I don't have an answer either.

Julianne said...

I've only recieved a couple of books for review, and I chose to apply for those, but the way I see it is: they're not paying you. Yes, you get the book for free, but that's not payment, that's just a tool to enable you to do the review sooner. I think it's about mutual respect, and self-respect. It takes several hours to read and thoughtfully review a book, and those hours are your leisure time, not your work time (unless of course you make money from your blog, in which case you would be motivated to review faster anyway!). There are loads of book bloggers, so if you don't have the time to review a book, or aren't interested in it, they should be able to find someone else to review it.

Sarah said...

I have been getting quite stressed about reviews this month. As you know I've got a lot going on in life at the moment so I'm hardly getting any time to spend reading & blogging so I'm getting way behind on everything. I've been trying not to worry too much about things because I know I'm only human and there is only so much I can do but it is hard so I understand where you're coming from.

I try to post reviews around the release date where possible particularly for books that I requested or agreed to review but it isn't always possible. I don't mind publishers sending surprise books (& I've read some great books I wouldn't have discovered otherwise) but I won't force myself to read something that doesn't appeal to me or to finish something I'm not enjoying. If I don't want to read the book then I usually contact the publicist and ask them if they would mind me doing a giveaway for it. So far they've all been really happy with that - I'm still spotlighting the book on my blog even though I'm not reviewing it and I'm helping to get 1 copy into the hands of someone who wants to read it & hopefully they will end up reviewing it on their blog.

All of the publicists I've spoken to have been very understanding when I've just not got on with one of the books they have sent me. I think they understand that not everyone can enjoy every book & it's better for me not to force myself to read something I know I'm not going to like. If I did I would only end up writing a negative review for the book just because it isn't to my taste - not because of anything wrong with the story.

Unless I'm agreeing to do something for a tour I never give people a date when a review will be posted. I only agree to a tour if I know I have enough time to read & review the book before I need to so that is fine with me. Everything else gets reviewed as and when I can & although I try to do it in the release month that isn't always possible. I will send links to the publicist as soon as the review is posted though :o)

I think you're probably worrying far more about this than any of the publicists you deal with. I know it is hard to turn off that internal guilt / worry but you've got to try to or you'll end up not enjoying blogging anymore & we don't want to lose you from the community!! Look at it this way - if the publicists weren't happy with the way you do things then they'd stop contacting you with review requests / sending unrequested books. Take the number of requests you receive as a compliment that the publishers respect your opinion & reviews but never feel guilty about politely saying no :o)

Sarah said...

Sorry for the essay reply - I didn't realise how much I'd written LOL :o)

Robby said...

I will admit that, if I get a review request and I'm not very interested in the book, I just don't reply. And I have a whole pile of books to review, that I accepted, that I still haven't read. I have no time to read anymore. A lot of us don't. And even if you do you want to do someone a favor, don't push yourself out of your comfort zone. Well, do, but only if you want to. I'm losing my interest in reading.

Lenore said...

Once I faced up to the fact that I couldn't possibly handle all the book review requests I was getting and stopped accepting pitches, I felt a great relief.

Sure, I still GET pitches anyway, but I can feel ok ignoring them (if I have to) thanks to a very strict review policy on my blog.

La Coccinelle said...

I've never gotten a book (unsolicited) from a publicist. I do feel pressure with review books from NetGalley, for example. But that's just a matter of not requesting too many at once (something I'll remember for next time).

I don't think it's necessarily bad to say no; your time is valuable, too.

Stephanie :) (Books Are A Girl's Best Friend) said...

What an amazing post idea, I've really enjoyed reading it and all the comments too!
I have been asking myself the same question recently as I have been added to a publisher's mailing list for the first time and received a package of about 8 books from them. I am very excited about this but I've been really busy with school lately as I'm only in my early teens and haven't been able to read as much as usual. Some of the books are from my favourite genres (yay!) whilst others are from genres I've never tried before, which I think is good in a way.
However I think that I may miss being able to choose exactly what I read and when.
I, like many other people feel guilty about saying no to requests from authors especially being a fairly new blogger. I'ts so hard to politely say no when someone thinks your opinion is worth a review copy.

I think Irena's idea is excellent, I have been thinking about doing the same with my school librarian and other trusted memebers of my book club.

This post and comments has definitely helped me with this, it's always nice to be reminded that other bloggers are in the same situation- thank you!

I stumbled upon your blog today (it's always great to discover a fellow UK blogger)and I love it so I'm now a new follower :D

Becky said...

Irena, thanks again!

Everyone, Irena has kindly volunteered to help me and review some books for The Bookette. She is an absolute star!

Jo, do you always decline the extra emails that you get requesting one off reviews from say an author? I know that I should relax about this but it isn't just me fretting. There have been times when publicists want to know when a review will post and sometimes I just don't know.

Lauren, I shall keep you up to date with how things work out with having someone to help me. It is an exciting possibility. I feel very lucky that Irena has volunteered because she is a fantastic reviewer and I very much respect her opinion.

In terms of reading things that are surprises and a little unusual this has definitely been a wonderful thing for me. Jaclyn Moriarty for instance, I would never have picked up one her books otherwise and now I worship the ground she walks on.

So right now I have no answers. I think I will do an update post on this issue in a few weeks and I can share with you all how I have moved forward.

Julianne, very true. I am one of many. I know this fact but it doesn't always help me put things in perspective. I don't get paid for my reviews. There have been several avenues with regard to earning money through my blog but I have always decided against them. I don't want it to feel like a job.

Sarah, I am starting to realise that nobody gives a date for a review. I think I may have been taken for a bit of a ride. Hmmmm... I am the sort of reader who finishes books but maybe in future I can try to give up on them if I am not enjoying them. Food for thought. Hope things get easier for you soon.

Robby, that is such a shame. But I think we all go through phases when life gets in the way of reading or we want to explore other interests. Maybe I need to start ingoring requests but I guess I do like to let people know one way or the other so they can ask someone else if I am not interested.

Lenore, I think perhaps I need to tighten up my policy. I am going to look at it again this week. Thanks for sharing your experience.

La Coccinelle, I haven't used Netgalley. I hardly ever request books. I may ask for a title from a backlist from a publicist I'm working with but not very often. I can count on one hand the number of times I've done that. It is more just the emails that are sent to me.

Stephanie, I thought I knew about nearly every UK blogger. How did you escape my notice? School librarians are great, aren't they?! ;-)

I agree that it is hard to say no when someone writes you an email and has obviously spent time getting to know your blog. I guess these are the favours I mention in the post. But I am not doing myself any favours by overburdening myself. Let's hope I get this situation under control. And I will just add that in the world of book blogging there is always someone going through the same worry as you so always say if you need some advice.

Stephanie :) (Books Are A Girl's Best Friend) said...

Well, I've only been blogging properly and joining in with the rest of the community since the summer holidays. Another UK blogger who started around the same time as me and I noticed is not on your list whose blog I think you would like is Jess Hearts Books (www.jessheartsbooks.blogspot.blogspot.com)

Yes, school librarians like you are amazing, mine is always so friendly and we have student librarians too which is exciting.

Thankyou, that's what I love about the book blogging community, people are so welcoming and supportive :D

I hope that you get the reviewing siuation more under control, I think Irena wil be a brillaint help- she is a wonderful and detailed reviewer!

Becky said...

Stephanie, my list is so hard to keep up to date. If you have any more blogs that I'm missing, please let me know.

You flatter me. I am very lucky to get to do the job that I do. Student librarians are so great at recommending good books.

I am so glad that I wrote this post.

Clover said...

I wish that I had more time to read the other comments on this post, I think they'd be fascinating to read what other bloggers think of this.

For me, I don't often worry about deadlines or posting by a certain time. I've never been asked or told a publisher when a review would be up. *shrugs* I don't think that I have as much experience as some of the other book bloggers out there with this?

But I have written into my review policy that I do review in my own time, and that it is dependent on my children and my university studies. No one's getting paid for this, I don't think I'm letting anyone down by not having quickly published reviews because it's not like the publishers are my employers or anything. I think the publishers are happy for reviews at any time. Before publication, around the release date and after to keep a book fresh in people's minds.

Plus, I always find that whenever I do try to push myself to read review copies or books that I think I 'should' read, it sends me into an almighty reading slump. I just cannot read books like that.

I do hope that things become less stressful for you! :)