Review Policy

What is a review policy?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has mandated new policies regarding online reviews and disclosure. A review policy is a mandatory statement if a book blogger accepts free electronic or paper Advance Reading Copies (ARC), promotional review copies, Galley Proofs or other works to be reviewed that I haven’t personally purchased. This statement is about where and how I receive books for review, what the disposition of these review copies is, and where I’ll post my reviews.

That’s a lotta stuff, Mark. Where’s the simple-language version?
Here’s the dealio: I primarily get my eARCs from Net Galley. I don’t get paid or receive compensation of any kind to review these books. It’s my own policy to delete the eARCs from my kindle after posting a review, however, I have kept a few here and there for re-reading, or passing it on to my wife or children for them to read. The eARCs are considered gifts, and I’ll treat them as such within the legality of copyright law. I’m a professional writer myself, and would never condone piracy.

While I prefer eARCs, I also accept paper ARCs and Galley Proofs. I receive paper copies of books directly from publishers and publicists through various publisher-specific programs, including Blogging for Books. As a general rule, I pass these paper books on to people I suspect would enjoy it, but I do keep some of the books for my personal collection.

Okay, that makes sense. Tell me more about the review process.
I only review English-language books. As a general policy, I don’t review an ARC unless it is 30 days from release. I will happily accept ARCs before this time period, but unless prior arrangements are made, I’ll not read it until 30 days before release. Now, I’m also a human, and if I see an ARC is available from an author I really like, or something I’m totally looking forward to, I’ll read it earlier. Reading for fun always supersedes reading for review.

The primary places I post my reviews are on my blog, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. The various publisher specific programs have their own feedback system and I adhere to their rules and policies. For the others, here are venue specific policies.

Goodreads: This will likely be the first place I post a review. I indicate what program(s) I participated in to receive the ARC.
Amazon: Per Amazon policies, reviews will be posted when the book becomes available. I’m a busy person though, and I sometimes forget. I indicate what program(s) I participated in to receive the ARC.
My blog: I only post book reviews on Tuesdays and Thursdays, unless of course I don’t. Hey, it’s my blog, so I’ll break the rules if I want to. I don’t disclose in the review where the book came from because my reviews are covered by this review policy.
Twitter: Review blog posts are cross-posted to Twitter, linking to the original blog review.

That pretty much covers the legality of your book reviews, what about your rating system?
I follow a sort of hybrid star system from Goodreads and Amazon:
5star: This book broke my brain. I couldn’t stop thinking about it while at work, driving my car, eating dinner, etc. If the author was able to turn off the critical writer brain, it’ll get five stars. If I rate it five stars, you just gotta read it RIGHT NOW, because this is a rare rating in my world.
4star: Anything from this being a great book, to I really liked it. I was actively engaged in the story and it was a pleasant read. These are books I’ll likely recommend to random people. Go get it and read it.
3star: Most of the books I review will fall into this category. If your story has been professionally written and edited, and I can suspend disbelief for the entirety of the book, but it doesn’t “wow” me, it’ll receive three stars. This is a neutral or average rating. If you’re a fan of the genre, then you’d probably like this book.
2star: Two stars is a rarity. Usually a bad story or ridiculously clichéd characters will warrant two stars. I try to find some redeeming quality in a book, but in this case, I just couldn’t. Two stars is a bad review from me.
1star: I can’t imagine an one-star review. If I finish the book, it’s usually worthy of at least two stars. Poor editing and butchering English marks the one-star rating. Also books I did not finish (DNF) go here.

What about indie publishers?
This one is a toughie. I welcome small press and independent publishers. Your book better be damn good though. You think you can throw down with the big dogs? Yeah? Have you had your book professionally edited? *squints eyes* Really? Not just by your college English instructor? You know the difference between beta readers, developmental editors, copy editors and line editors? Okay send me your request. I’ll respond if I’d like to review your work. No response? I’m either disinclined to acquiesce to your request, or I’m just busy. Be patient, resending your request will only piss me off. Never heard back from me? Try requesting I review your follow-up book. You are writing the next one, right? Also, if your electronic book is not properly formatted with a table of contents, I will seriously Hulk-smash you. But don’t worry, even traditional publishers send me books without a proper TOC, so it’s not just you.

I’ve met and gotten to know a good many indie authors. Unless I know you personally, I’m simply not interested in your unfinished or unedited manuscript. I don’t read fan fiction or stuff from Kindle Worlds.

What about web fiction, audiobooks and graphic novels/comic books?
The audiobook question is easy, sure I’ll check out your audiobook, but they’re usually at the bottom of my list. Graphic novels and comic books are a different animal all together. I enjoy comic books and graphic novels. Unfortunately the electronic implementation of both of those is difficult at best. I’ll likely decline any review requests for digital or paper comic books unless I already know you. Graphic novels I’ll accept in paper format – please shoot me an email to get my information. I generally don’t read web fiction unless I already know you.

That’s some pretty heavy law you’re layin’ down. What genres do you actually read?
My number one favorite totes magotes is Science Fiction. I’ll even read bad science fiction. If your book has spaceships, aliens, wormholes, time travel, tech or other sci-fi tropes, I’m your man.

I also like to read:
Dystopian
Hard Sci-fi
“Low” Fantasy
Young Adult
Romance
Alternate History
Chick Lit

Anything else that’s not a tired cliché full of comically one-dimensional characters and villains.

Unless I’m already familiar with your work, or I know you personally, don’t ask me to review the following:
Regency Romance
“High” Fantasy
Erotica
Westerns
Mystery
Horror
Women’s Fiction
Fan Fiction
Kindle Worlds
Web Fiction

If I didn’t specifically mention a genre you think you can shoehorn your book into, then I’m ambivalent to that genre. Send your request my way.

Okay, I’ve made it through your very long review policy. Now what?
Check out my reviews already posted. You pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down? You dig my snark and subtle charm? You’ve clicked on my Goodreads profile and my to-read list is less than 100 books? Cool, let’s do this. Send me a query email. Wait. Stop. You didn’t just click on “attach” did you? *stares* Did you? Hold your horses, Hoss. You’re just sending me a query. I’ll respond if I’m interested. I get an epic shit-ton of requests every day, so be cool and wait for my response. If you’re not cool, it’ll just piss me off. No one wants an angry book reviewer.

If I haven’t responded to your query and you’re just convinced I must’ve missed your email, reread this entire page. I do judge a book by its cover. Did your email adhere to the basic rules of the English language? Is your book really in one of the genres I like? Do I already know you? Are there less than 100 books on my Goodreads “to-read” list? Are you a book aggregator or distributer that has a history of putting out improperly formatted books with covers that look like they were done in MS Paint? If you hung your head and answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, your email probably didn’t get lost or overlooked.

If you see your book on my Goodreads “to-read” list and I haven’t contacted you for an ARC, then you should drop me an email right away. I’ve already expressed an interest, so why not follow through?

Finally, I love to do author interviews, chats and prerecords. If I haven’t already reviewed one of your books, then I’m not interested in your guest post, author interview, promotional campaign or recipes for sugar-free cookies. As I’ve said before, if I’m already a fan of you or I know you, I’m pretty much game if I think my readers will like what you got. Following me on Twitter doesn’t mean I know you. If I follow you, though, we might have something to work with – I’m pretty stingy with my Twitter follows. I do author interviews mostly on Saturdays, but if you didn’t already know that, then there’s no chance that I know you. Why you frontin’?

Links to my email, Twitter, and Goodreads profile are on every page right below my stunning mug shot.

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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