Cyndy Aleo

Four Little Bees Writing & Editing

author, freelance writing, editing, and a little bit of web development, helping clients with content development, book editing, and blog set-up and customization

On being a book reviewer

It's insane that I'm writing this post.

Insane because I have 12 books to review this month and while it's doable, you need to understand that as a book reviewer, you often don't get a full month to read that many books. My deadline is the 29th, and I just received some books on the 20th. 

But a couple of things have bothered me a bit that I've seen on Twitter. One was a person expressing a wish to "have a career" as a book reviewer. The other was an author or two complaining about the books they were assigned to read and judge for RWA's RITA awards.

Both are things I want to address.

The first is being a "career" reviewer. I don't think there is such a thing.

Oh sure, there are some book people at major publications, but they also do reporting and contribute in other ways. And to be honest, if most of you knew how much even pro reviewers are paid? You'd sob in empathy. 

No one is getting rich reviewing books.

The second is the kvetching I've seen about not getting books in a category or having too many books to read for the RITAs.

Guess what, authors? We get that every month. And most of us don't get the option of putting a book down if we hate it. We have to keep going.

There's only one reason anyone should even contemplate becoming a book reviewer, whether it's professionally or as a hobby: because you love books and you want to share them with people.

Part of that responsibility means you keep going when a book sucks in case it improves. Part of it means you read books you might not normally pick up at the bookstore. And part of that means it's a pretty thankless task most of the time.

There are months I'm literally in tears looking at the pile of ARCs that arrive. Moments when I hate my life because I don't have enough room to cover a promising-looking debut novel. Times when a book is so terrible I despair that humanity as a whole is falling into the abyss, especially when people claim to love it.

But then there are those moments when you find an amazing book that most people will probably overlook and realize you were given the opportunity to tell other people about it. And hopefully help sell more copies. And hopefully get more publishers to take risks on those kinds of books. 

It's like kissing frogs to find a prince: You have to weed through an awful lot of frogs to find the really good one. And if you aren't going to be happy with THAT as your top priority in reviewing (or entering your book in a contest for awards)? Then don't do it. Because that's really the only great thing about this gig.