I'm Done With That

I. Am. Done.

I'm done being part of the rat-race of reviewing romance books for the sake of:
1.) building an audience
2.) marketing authors' books
3.) getting a free book
I didn't start out with any of these intentions. When I began blogging a year ago, I only wanted to shared my book reviews in a creative and unrestricted way. I felt limited by the review rules of Amazon and Goodreads and wanted a freer outlet. So I created this blog.

People say that knowledge is power. Sometimes though knowledge can open the wrong doors. And that's what happened to me. I heard that, in order to blog, I had to build an audience. In blogging book reviews in particular, reviewing advanced copies of books (ARC, for short) & finished book copies given by an author/publisher is supposed to get your blog “out there”. Book review sign-up sites like Netgalley, Edelweiss, and the multiple reader forums in Goodreads encourage this kind of audience exposure. Especially for new, indies, or self-published authors. I thought it was a wonderful deal, getting free books in exchange for reading and posting my reviews of them. But, after months of being increasingly irritated with and disappointed by this whole review-in-exchange-for-a-free-book process, I had to evaluate myself and what the heck I was doing. This is what I found:

1. I am no fan-girl.

One of my biggest pet peeves with current romance-novel reviews is the crazy fan-girl reviews. 
This is particularly evident in the New Adult romance sub-genre. Look up any popular New Adult author on Goodreads website & you'll see the review page filled with awe-filled comments about the book with accompanying photo images and lots of exclamation points. The thing is I've read thousands of romance novels so I don't get easily impressed any more. I don't “Oh my God!” or "squee!" about books or think a book Hero is “my book boyfriend”. 
Maybe its because high school was eons ago. But I didn't fan-girl any music bands or celebrities then either. 

Fake reviews can often be trailed to these ultra-loyal fans. They're like the family and friends of the authors who will post reviews of the author's books on Amazon and Goodreads websites without disclosing their relationship to the author. These reviews are fake because they're biased towards the author and is most likely done to help boost the author's book rating. These reviews mislead potential readers to spend their time and money on a falsely advertised book.

I read books because something in the story appeals to me. I don't follow authors and have no loyalty towards them. If they write a sucky book, then they get a poor rating from me & I likely won't buy their book again unless they prove themselves otherwise (thank God for public libaries!). I do appreciate authors who've written a slew of books I've liked. But a sucky book is a sucky book and being a fan of an author is not a reason for me to rate & review it differently. My reviews are all about the book and how it affects me. It's a momentary personal thing and I try to capture it in my reviews. And it only lasts until the next book.

2. Honesty isn't really what they all want.

A free book in exchange for reading it and posting an honest review. Sounds like the greatest deal for someone who already reads and review books, right? It depends.

If you won't sell your honest opinions in exchange for a free book. If you won't compromise your true book rating in order to please or not hurt the author's or publisher's feelings. If you'll risk never getting asked/approved to review another book from that author or publisher again. If you can brush off the backlash you may get (I'm telling you, some of those fan-girls are crazy in a bad way!) for posting a negative review, then yes. Multiple negative comments and those anonymous downvotes on Amazon.com have gotten to me at times. On particularly challenging days, I get aggravated with them. Especially when the negativity comes from the book's author. It's often made me wonder if they really want an “honest” review or are they angling for a positive review and high rating because they gave you a free copy of their book? Although I've never had an author or publisher tell me outright that they're expecting a positive review of their book from me, I've definitely felt the pressure from their emails before and after I review their book. It ain't pretty. 
Those invisible claws come out when I rate their books a 3-star or less. Rrrrawr.

3. Free isn't even worth it.

My blog is free. I review books for free. I'm not getting any money for it. Some may consider getting a free book from an author or publisher as payment but I don't see it that way. Not anymore.

My original intention was to post reviews of books I've acquired through the years. I have hundreds still waiting to be read (and it continues to pile up). Getting free books from authors & publishers to review seemed like a great idea a year ago. But now not so much. It's not worth the pressure of time and emotions. I put a lot of time and effort in my reviews. Those free books I get for a review don't even begin to "pay" for my time and effort.  
It's quite laughable that an author/publisher would think that I owe them a positive review and high rating just because they gave me a free book. My and other readers' reviews are helping them market their books for free. They really should be paying us much more than a free book. But that would get us into the sticky situation of unbiased reviews.

4. The personal cost is too much.

What started out as a fun hobby a year ago had become onerous.  Reading to review is no longer fun for me. And I don't want to do it anymore. Why?
  1. Because I end up reading books that are mediocre and sometimes awful.
  2. Because I put the books I really want to read on hold due to the ARCs & book copies I promised to review at an allotted time (i.e., the book's release date, blog tour date)
  3. Because this whole read-to-review process became feeling like serious work instead of a light hobby.
  4. Because I became so turned off by the fake reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and I realized I was part of this whole marketing scheme, even if my reviews come from the heart.
  5. Because it cost me my love of reading romance novels.
Reason #1 to #4 are quite bad but to have this reviewing and blogging experience cost me my love of reading romance is horrendous! Mind-boggingly, frustratingly, and depressingly horrendous. 

I endured over a month (from end of July 2014 to beginning of this month) of having no desire to read romance. I felt like an impotent man who really wants to get excited but can't. I couldn't get past the first sentence of any romance novel before I gave up and closed it. It was awful and I sincerely hope I'm completely over it. I thought that nothing could touch my love of reading romance. And the fact that this book-marketing scheme via reviews did is my wake-up call to stop this madness!

My new MO (modus operandi) is to go back to my original blogging plan. To read simply because I want to. And write reviews because I like doing so. What this means is that I'll be reading and reviewing books from my own reading pile from now on

I will probably accept an occasional ARC book/book copy but only when the right mood hits me & the book really appeals to me. For the authors and publishers reading this, know that my reviews do NOT whatsoever guarantee a positive or high rating. You will only get the truth of what I really think of your book from me. If you can handle the truth, then we have a deal. 
I expect respect, decency, and maturity in our dealings. Anything else is UNacceptable.

7 comments:

  1. You are so right!! I feel exactly the same way.
    I don't like writing bad reviews, or more importantly, I just don't want to review all the time and be forced to look at a book critically! I just want some entertainment and to read sometime for fun without being obliged.

    Haha! Yes, sometimes you see so much hype and reviews over a particular book (Especially those New Adult or YA book) and then you read it, you go: "What the heck is all this raving about?!"
    Sometimes, much lesser known books have a certain charm, sophistication and maturity to their characters.

    I don't review now. It is a lot of commitment that I just don't want to put in. Maybe if I keep a blog active for a few months, it's great, but then I have to continue to do so and I have so many better things to explore right now! It is exhausting, I agree!
    Maybe an occasional guest blog or two if I am in the mood or have to.

    Oh well.
    I have been reading romance since the past four years and I am fed up now of the current style of writing. So I have switched to vintage books written between 1930 to 1990. It's like a whole new world.

    Sigh, I need a new hobby.

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    1. Minesha, I'm with you on reading vintage books nowadays. I've had my fill of New Adult books too & they're sending too much alike. And the new Contemporaries & Historicals aren't floating my boat either. The older books' plots & general quality are much richer than what we get now. It's like they insert the same 'ol plot & characters & then add lots of sex scenes.

      It IS a lot of commitment reviewing books. It wasn't for me before, when I'd do a concise review & didn't blog. But now I've become more verbose & my own standards have increased for myself. I am my own worst enemy sometimes. I don't mind reviewing but I'm cutting back A LOT on what I'm reading & reviewing now. I found through my 5 weeks of reading break that there is so much more in life that I miss by merely reading. And I'd like to continue to finding out what else life has to offer. So, I encourage you to find an additional hobby. It would be such a sacrilege to drop reading romance altogether ;)

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  2. I found you from a link you posted in the Harlequin Presents thread over at Amazon, and I must say, I've enjoyed your blog because you (1) read vintage Harlequin (2) give spoilers (3) don't fan girl (4) don't act like a know-it-all (spare me the reviewers with PHDs and law degrees who are here to educate all those silly romance readers).
    I'm a lurker in the romance community, but I do want you to know that your work is appreciated and I'm really glad you're going to continue your blog.

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    1. oh, what encouraging words! Thank you, stmargarets. Fellow romance readers like you are who I aim my reviews for. Feeling appreciated. A great way to start my day :)

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  3. I'm another one who enjoys your site, a silent reader no more. But I just had to chime in and let you know how much I enjoy your reviews. And it doesn't really matter what you review to me, I love your in depth reviews, and spoilers if I wish to, plus pointing out potential problems with books.

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    1. oh, Jamie. Thank you. That means a lot.

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  4. As an author whose books are sometimes classified as "New Adult", I couldn't agree with you more. Finding something in that "genre" that isn't a Twilight retread, or have "broken" characters, or a sweet girl redeeming an abusive bad boy is like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. The lack of originality is depressing. When I started writing, many bloggers were excited about the wealth of new ideas from self-published and small-press authors. It's too bad that so many bloggers have hit the same wall you have. I can't say that I'm glad you've made the decision you have, but I understand it. Nice blog, btw. :)

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