Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Navel Gazing

No Soup This Week
 I'm busy navel gazing.

In preparation for moving the Christmas tree into the living room, I went through most of my "TBR" pile -- the physical ones, that is.  My piles of books are... out of control.  Like, causing problems in my house.

I did a fairly ruthless sort and have a large box ready to go to a new home.  And still, I have, conservatively guessing, about 200 mass market paperbacks that I am "planning" to read.  Many of these came from the 2012 RT convention; some from the Borders' liquidation, and many from the various publishers and publicists I've been privileged to work with.

Madness.

I've been really struggling to get reviews done (as you may have noticed).  I keep waffling about maybe being Done with blogging, but I can't seem to quite give it up.  It's one of those things where I get out of it what I put in, and it's been hard for me to muster up the Putting In energy -- my life is different than it was in 2007 when I started.  I'm also looking forward like CRAZY to RT14 in New Orleans.  This world still has something in it for me... but what exactly is it?

I had a moment of truth last week.  There was a new release out; I had read an advance copy via Edelweiss, and was getting ready to knock out a review for it when I noticed something kind of odd.  There was a lot of buzz about this title -- more than usual.  Between my feed reader, Twitter, and a couple of related Facebook groups I'm on, I was seeing this title over and over.  I checked the author's website and discovered that she had organized a blog tour of... SIXTY blogs.  I commend her, I really do -- she is pushing all the right buttons and really leveraging the blog community.

Thing is, I don't want to be lost in a crowd like that. And honestly, who would want to read sixty reviews of the same book? Who has that kind of time?

What's the Mission?
The previous week, a minor kerfuffle came and went on Twitter and Facebook.  The details aren't important, but Joyfully Jay caught my eye with this comment:


And elaborated:

To me, this is super-obvious. With the exception of the professional review blogs like Smart Bitches and Dear Author, most book bloggers are also aspiring authors. They are building relationships with publishers and publicists, and when the time comes to submit a manuscript, their name is known and they have something of a reputation and a platform. (Do people still talk about having a platform? it was all the rage about 3 years ago.)  Anyway... that's not my mission. 

"Authors are My Rockstars"
There is also a certain celebrity factor to interacting with authors, especially the ones whose work you love. This can be pretty dazzling-- no really, it is. I hear you laughing out there as you juggle your copy edits in two-day yoga pants and feeding the kids PB&J so you can make your deadline... but really, it is.  We recognize your talent and your skill and your hard work, and feeling a part of the writing and publishing world is flattering.  Getting free books is great-- let's be honest here -- but there is also a bit of a prestige factor going on.  The first time I got a bound galley, I wanted to shake it in front of everyone on the bus: DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS IS??? ISN'T IT AWESOME!!  NOT EVERYBODY GETS THESE YOU KNOW I AM SPECIAL!!  I mean, I didn't do that.  That would make me just another crazy bus person.  But still.  I wanted to.

I think this was my mission for awhile.  The interaction, the books, the feeling of prestige.  But that was perhaps a couple hundred books ago...

Back to the Basics
I'm feeling bad about all the books I have received and not reviewed.  Especially the ones I really liked! Some I even specially requested.  I'm a terrible person.  This guilt weighs on me and drags down my pleasure in reading other blogs and writing my own.  Also, I hate when I get a book that I think is just so-so -- is there anything harder to write a review for than a "perfectly adequate but no more" genre book? I feel like I'm letting down the author or the publicists and not holding up my unwritten side of the bargain of free books for reviews-- and I am a huge fan of the genre so why wouldn't they expect/hope for positive reviews. So I think the time has come to change my review policy:

I'm going to read books I have. I'm going to read books that catch my eye, without much regard to the publication date. I will probably buy a few here and there.  I will talk about the ones that give me something to talk about -- might be a review, or a rave, or just a chat.

I've already almost stopped requesting anything from NetGalley and Edelweiss.  There are one or two places that send me unsolicited physical books -- I will be contacting them and letting them know that my policy has changed.


I plan to keep up with the Soup, and maybe go back to posting more of the Thursday Thirteen memes -- I always had fun with those.

I feel lighter already.

8 comments:

samantha.1020 said...

I love this post! I actually have gone through phases of review copies or no review copies but finally I just quit pressuring myself. I will never be a big name blogger and I am okay with that. I blog because I like to talk books and that is that. If I don't blog for a week, then I just don't :) I hope this works for you and I love your soup posts by the way!

Nicola O. said...

Thanks! I feel the same.

mharvey816 said...

I agree with so much of this, but I am a slight outlier: I'd love to be a book editor but I have no illusions that this could ever happen. The reason I started reviewing was to get good books early and save some money in the process. Now it's more because I love sharing my opinions with like minded people and hopefully being a helpful enabler. :)

Nicola O. said...

I sometimes think I could be a good editor (although I do not have the detailed training in any given Handbook style), but I am not sure I'd really be able to spot the good stuff in the slush pile. I'm not always a super-particular reader, and I don't know that I would be really good at being objective about a specific manuscript. You know what I mean? Anyhow.

I could read for the next two years without spending a dime (although I probably will...) so the money saving part is not much factor at this point.

I will miss getting certain titles early... but to be honest, I have started buying my most favorite-est ones lately anyway so the reading can be pure pleasure, and the reviewing optional. I tend to read in a little different mindset if I'm intending to review.

Victoria Janssen said...

I am utterly identifying with this post...I need to cull the physical TBR about five more times. The first three times only got rid of a couple of boxes.

Amy said...

aw Thursday Thirteen <3 I tried to do those again, but thirteen is still hard...

Anyway yeah. This post makes sense!

Hilcia said...

Nicola, I meant to post here before to let you know how much this post resonated with me.

Thanks for verbalizing how I have been feeling for a long time, and more so this last year.

Nicola O. said...

Thanks for dropping by, Hilcia. Between the holidays and some work travel, I haven't gotten the boost of posting energy I was hoping for, but there's always tomorrow...

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