Trials and Tribulations of Reviewing with Mieneke van der Salm

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The second installment of TFF’s new guest post series on the demands of reviewing welcomes Mieneke van der Salm from A Fantastical Librarian.

“Mieneke is one of the few book bloggers that I follow quite regularly and look to for recommendations on what’s good and what’s bad. Her guest post today highlights a very different aspect of the hobby that I really appreciate and respect.” ~Shadowhawk

The Trials and Tribulations of Reviewing

by Mieneke van der Salm

When Shadowhawk asked me whether reviewing is ever difficult for me my immediate reaction was ‘Hell yeah!” When he asked how I coped it was a more difficult question to answer. Reviewing gets difficult for several reasons. Most importantly there are the other demands of my time. I’m a mum to two girls under three, working a four-day-a-week job, so as you’d imagine life can get busy, especially if one of the kids gets sick. If life takes off like that and encroaches on my reading and reviewing time, keeping to my reviewing schedule can be tough and that can feel stressful, particularly when I’ve promised someone a review or a post by a specific date. I’ve had to learn to let go of the schedule and accept that I’m not super-human and people will understand if I let them know something will be late.

Another thing that I’ve had difficulties with is saying no. From the start, I’ve had a clear review policy on my site stating what I will and won’t read. But people either don’t read it or ignore it, resulting in many authors (mainly self-pubbed) contacting me about reviews. And then I have to say no. Or I’ll have a pretty big (virtual) stack of review copies, which should really get read first before accepting new ones. So I have to say no. And it makes me feel awful, because a) I dislike disappointing people and b) well, I’m just really not good at saying no. This ends up with me having conniptions, before writing a politely worded mail saying “thank you, but no thank you?” Which is not always met with the kindest replies. But I’ve learned to say no more often and to shrug off the few angry replies. I’ve learned to use the delete function more liberally, if people don’t even bother to send me a personalised email and clearly haven’t read or disregard my reviewing policy, into the bin they go. I’ve decided I’m not being rude by not replying, they’re rude for wasting my time and you don’t always have to be nice.

The final thing that can make reviewing a stressful business is critical reviews. I was raised to be kind and that if you don’t have something nice to say, to just keep your mouth shut. Unfortunately, that is not what reviewing is about. When I started A Fantastical Librarian, I decided that I’d always be honest in my reviews, otherwise, what would my opinions be worth? However, being negative was hard and I’ve struggled with learning how to say I thought something wasn’t good with a good explanation, without always saying it might just be me. Yes, of course there will be things that are purely personal reactions, but there are also things that aren’t personal and aren’t just me. But I like to think I’ve learned how to do it and that I’m still getting better at it, though I still hold my breath when posting a less-than-stellar review.

So how to I cope with all of this? By being super-organised in my reading, planning ahead and if I really can’t keep to my schedule to just accept it, move on, and try to catch up if possible. I’m lucky that my husband is very tolerant and if I’m stressed out about having to write something to a schedule, he’ll pick up the slack or take the girls out for a walk so I can write in peace. But most of all, I remind myself that this is a hobby and if it’s not fun anymore, I should quit. Venting to other bloggers, either on Twitter, or via email, always helps in gaining perspective as well as does taking time off and having some fun with my family. But most off all, I just escape into a book and remember how much I love reading.

*****

Pallekenl on Twitter, and Web.

The next guest on for the series will be fellow reviewer and friend David Ledeboer aka “Troubled Scribe“, on the 28th.

You can read my own post here.

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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  • Bob Milne

    Nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with juggling the demands of home, office, and the bookshelf, and not alone in feeling bad about saying ‘no’ to an author.

    Good point about being a hobby – I used to review for a friend’s website and took an extended sabbatical when it stopped being fun. When it became fun again was when I started my own blog.

    • http://sonsofcorax.wordpress.com/ Shadowhawk

      Thanks for posting, Bob! It definitely is a great hobby and I wouldn’t switch it with anything else myself.