Selecting books – the unknown and arcane

Probably what a lot of authors and publicists want to know is: just how does a book reviewer go about selecting books?

Well, we can’t answer for all book reviewers. Some people (lucky sods) can read pretty much full time, and may not ever be in a position where they have to select. Unfortunately, gluttonous book devourers as we are here, we have full-time jobs that eat into our reading time, and so we get sent far more books for review than we can practically read in any useful time-frame.

So, we triage the submissions each week. The easy ones to knock off the list are the folks who, for whatever reason, haven’t read the submission guidelines, tried to bypass the submission form, or didn’t complete all the needed fields on the submission form (we made it as short as we could…).

Of the ones that are left, we head over to Amazon, pull them up, and have a very high-level look at the book pages, where available. Things we look for include:

  • Does the cover look professional?
  • Is the blurb free of editorial errors?
  • Is it really in a genre we read?
  • Does the blurb make us want to read the preview?

If the answer to all of the above is ‘yes’, then congratulations – your book has made it onto the week’s shortlist, usually one of between three and ten books.

After that, we pull up previews.

It makes our lives much easier if there is an Amazon page, and there is a book preview, but if not, then we go into the file attachment in the submission form and check out a few pages there. And frankly, much the same criteria apply to the preview as to the book page. If that preview is showing easily-avoided editorial mistakes, bad formatting, or clunky phrasing, then you probably aren’t going to be in the final cut.

Some weeks, that takes our selection down to a book. Other weeks, we get a bumper crop of awesome submissions, and we still have to cut the list down a bit.

So the final round for a week, when no matter how much we spin the Time-Turner, we have still got to get the list down a bit more, is based on a much more subjective criteria, and it comes down to ‘Did we get hooked?’.

We’ve been asked why our submission form is so short, and why we don’t want to see the usual, laboriously-constructed pitches and press releases. The honest answer is, By Rite of Word is a book reviewing outfit, not an author-reviewing outfit. We know you’re all wonderful people, you’ve written a book. Great. However, ultimately what we’re interested in is your writing, and your story-telling ability, and how professionally you have put together your book. We neither need nor want press releases and biographies; your writing will tell us everything we need to know.

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