Reviews, Time and Filthy Lucre

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Reviews, Time and Filthy Lucre

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Summary: A brief note on our reasons for charging for some of our reviews. Life is full of unpleasant decisions, and this is one of ours.
Date: January 2009
Author: Jill Murphy

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A note on our editorial policy. Well, and a minor rant, but I feel snitty today!

At Bookbag, we cover as many books as we can, but we do need to cover those which are searched for, or nobody will find the site at all, and even the books that aren't searched for very often won't get much of an airing.

However, since Sue and I founded Bookbag, we have tried to support and provide coverage for minor publishers and even self-published writers. As a small outfit ourselves, we had an uphill task persuading the major houses to take notice of us, and so we know what it's like to have beavered away and got your baby out there, only to find that nobody is in the least bit interested enough to even acknowledge you, let alone give you a helping hand. If you're not big enough, you don't get coverage. You can't get big enough unless you get coverage. It's all a horrible vicious circle.

However, as time has gone by we have found that trying to do this takes up a disproportionate amount of our time. Self-published authors react with aggression to the mildest criticism of their work. Reviews of work published by regional or local houses are invariably haunted by friends and relatives who never identify themselves as interested parties and who similarly wish to take issue with the tiniest of details. Endless correspondence ensues in which we defend ourselves from attack - when most of the time we've liked the gosh-darned book! - and we find ourselves spending three times as much time on these reviews as on the mainstream hits on which site success and income actually depends. Our reviewers do this for love, not shekels, and Sue and I aren't exactly living a jet-set lifestyle on Bookbag proceeds, so we just cannot afford to get caught up on side issues like this. Time is precious.

People coming to Bookbag simply require a flavour of a book so that they can make their own decisions about a purchase or a library borrowing. Our reviews try to be generous in their praise and stinting in their criticism - as is editorial policy in trying to support books from outside the main lists - and we think they provide an accurate, if not nit-pickingly detailed, picture of what the books are about and who might enjoy reading them.

We are happy to debate with anyone who disagrees with anything we say - in fact we love a good argument, and that is why we include a commentary section under each review - but we take serious exception to people who are disingenuous about who they are and any possible conflict of interest. It misleads Bookbag's readers and customers, and they are the people that really matter.

So, if you are wondering why we review what we review, now you know!

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