Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blogging: Review Requests

For days on end, weeks even, the Casual Debris mailbox is a desolate place, barren and neglected amid Google's vast kingdom. On occasion, however, it is unexpectedly crammed with a combination of epistles, everything from spam, article feedback or site comments. Most often it is a receptacle of review requests.

Until recently I have politely turned down all review requests. This is not because I'm a snob or too sensitive to potentially hurt anyone's feelings, nor too arrogant to be interested in anything in which I'm not already interested. Most of the requests I receive are simply not appropriate for Casual Debris. Though the site has branched a little from its initial portfolio, some of the requests truly come out of left field. Review requesters often don't take the time to read blog descriptions or sample reviews and are hence unaware of where the blog's mandate lie. Often requests are sent out in mass bulk, aimed at as many reviewers as a generic email can get a hold of. Most of the requests I've seen are from new or self-published authors desperate to find readership and confident enough to think such requests will lead to a positive online write-up. I don't hold this kind of marketing against anyone as there is so much competition and I understand that everyone wants to be given a chance. Yet I would more likely be interested in something if the marketing were approached with creativity rather than volume, and at times authors can be so aggressive that their tactic is not to their benefit.

The main reason I have turned down review requests is that most of those I've receive are for styles I am not interested in reviewing, such as flash fiction. The work might very well be excellent and worthy of reading, but it's a style I am personally not fond of, and Casual Debris has not, so far, branched out into the flash fiction universe. The bulk of the review requests I receive are for horror fiction, and while I do read and occasionally review works of that genre, I am not a horror aficionado. I prefer horror in the short form and only occasionally read the genre to get an idea of what's out there. I prefer what I'd like to call "literary fantasy," which is fiction that emphasizes strong writing but contains an element of fantasy, whether it be horror or otherwise. Think Franz Kafka.

A few weeks ago, however, I received the perfect review request. Perfect for Casual Debris, that is. The editor sending the request was clearly familiar with the blog and sent a personalized request with proper links and descriptions. I was impressed; it was both professional and considerate. The work being offered up for review was a new annual anthology, something Casual Debris gets very excited about, and rather than sending e-texts or co-ordinates for download, they offered actual books. I understand that shipping, particularly overseas can be costly, but as I never request payment of any kind, nor any counter-offer other than a link to the review, the gesture is generous and appreciated. Particularly since I collect (of all things) anthologies and literary journals. These editions will look nice on my anally organized shelves once I'm done reading them.

The small press that sent me the request was Unthank Books, and the annual anthology is titled Unthology. A week or so ago I received the first two unthologies (the third is due out this fall), and they are attractive and dense publications. I'm familiar with some of the authors via other UK journals such as The Fiction Desk, and having just read the first entry I am excited to get through the volume.

Truly among the minor joys in my life is receiving books in the mail, and sending appropriate books is a good addition in convincing me to review. I own over a thousand books and I now only keep novels is they are truly exceptional, out of print or hard to find, a nifty old edition, or if it has some sentimental value. Honestly though, as I do like to help support new literary ventures, I would definitely accept electronic copies for review.

Or, if you just happen to have any anthologies or journals lying around that you no longer want... I do offer trades.

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