Stuff on Sunday: And now we return to our regular schedule…

 

In the last couple of Stuff On Sunday posts, one of the issues that came up is bloggers becoming overwhelmed by there TBR piles, and more specifically the books they have received or accepted for the purposes of providing a review. When I first started blogging I never envisioned this becoming an issue for me personally. I thought it unlikely author’s would be interested in having me review their books and even more unlikely that publishers would be willing to send me free books just for that purpose. Mostly, because well, I’m nobody and partly because I live in Australia where publishers have been slow to value book bloggers as a promotional outlet. I wasn’t concerned, I was happy enough reviewing the books I borrowed from the library or picked up at the local thrift store and the occasional NetGalley title I was approved to read. It was only weeks after the blog was launched really when the requests from self published authors started to pour in, and the selection of titles available at NetGalley broadened considerably, that I realised that I was going to have to figure out a way to manage the temptation of so many great reading opportunities. For me that meant deciding on some realistic limits.

I feel really strongly that if I choose a book for review whether it is from an unsolicited email or my own request via Netgalley, for example, then I am entering an informal contract  – the exchange of a book for a published review.  I know not everyone feels that way, but it is the way I choose to look at it. So, managing my reading, or more accurately my reviewing, became a priority for me.

For me. the answer was creating a schedule to help me meet my obligations and to stop me from getting carried away (mostly). If it’s something you might want to try, here are my top five tips:

  • Set a limit – consider how many books you can realistically read and review within a month and don’t request or accept more than you will be able to cope with. I try to limit the review titles I have to a maximum of 15 per month, though that can go a little haywire when books turn up unexpectedly or I just can’t resist the latest offering. (This month is a great case in point for me!) Within those 15 slots, I deliberately leave room for 5 self published/small press titles per month since I believe it’s important to support them and I love discovering and sharing these great titles that might otherwise go completely unnoticed.
  • Set deadlines – I have always worked better with firm deadlines, even if they are largely self imposed ones. Since books have a set release date and most publishers prefer a review be posted close to that date it provides a built in deadline. Knowing what is coming up means I can plan around my life outside of the blog as well.
  • Give yourself some room – I read a week or two ahead of the schedule so I can vary the order a little, if for example I don’t feel like reading a thriller, I can pick up a chick lit due the same week. If you are a mood reader you might find that you need to give yourself even more room.  Additionally, by limiting my review books to 15 a month I can read around 5 books a month that don’t require a review so I make some inroads into my mountainous TBR pile and don’t feel so restricted.
  • Keep track – If I don’t have it written down the chances are I will forget about it, I blame it on my advancing age (30 something) and all the everyday minutia I keep in my head like who needs their school library book on what day, how long its’ been since the bed linen has been changed, what I need to pick up from the store on the way home etc .  My review schedule is posted on my blog which helps keep me honest and I use an app on my iPod to help me keep track as well.  I know some bloggers use whiteboards, coloured post it notes, diaries, calenders. It doesn’t really matter how as long as it’s useful, clear and you will actually look at it.
  • Make it work: If your schedule is making you more stressed then it’s the wrong schedule for you. Schedules are supposed to make your life easier, not harder. Change it, refine it, adjust your expectations – it might take you a few weeks or even months to get it right and even then you might need to continue refining it as your circumstances change.

I know a schedule doesn’t work for everybody, but I have found it works for me because I make it work for me, over the last year I have tweaked it here and there and will again most likely. A schedule though is only one way to cope with the  challenges of reviewing.

I’d love for you all to share your tops tips or words of advice for managing your review piles.

What works for you? What doesn’t?

 

 

 

29 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jacabur1
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 04:44:12

    I have found out from the very beginning to make myself set a limit to review books accepted as no more than 10 a month and most times less than that or I get very desperate and upset from stress. Reading the books is never the problem, getting things written up for me is the one that takes forever as I am someone who mulls a book over for a few days before setting up my thoughts on it.
    Scheduling is something that is hit or miss, when I say yes to a book it is almost 100% from an author requesting it as am unknown to publishers and prefer it that way actually. After close to three years it has been my pleasure to find many Indie authors who have really great reads to enjoy and share with others. My mainstream big publisher books are ones I have bought for myself and read for my own pleasure and have of course written those up as well but not most of them.

    Time is precious and a huge chunk of mine is spent organizing when I will read, what I will post, when I will post it and so forth and then printing out a copy to check off and keep me on track.

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 11:49:22

      I’m the same Jacqueline – writing a review takes me almost the same amount of time it took me to read the book in the first place and I usually need a day or two to think about it before I start writing it so I have to take that into account as well in my schedule

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  2. Carol Wong
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 04:58:46

    I am reader instead of blogger but I like to review all the books that I read. Thank you for your tips, think some of them apply even for a reader. I am 65 now really need to give myself some room. I did some guest blogs for a while but felt too pressured by the time limits so I am not doing them now. I do about 10 reviews a month.

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 11:51:30

      Thinking about it Carol, even when I was a only reading (not reviewing at all) I scheduled myself according the library due dates lol

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  3. Leeswammes
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 05:08:14

    Makes total sense to me. We seem to be working the same way! I also believe in the contract situation – I WILL read and review every single book I have agreed to read and review.

    I’m keeping track in a spreadsheet and plan the review books (and other commitments, like book group) by month. I don’t take more than 5 review books per month at the moment (‘Full until April’), but that leaves space for some books that I really want to review, e.g., review books that I have heard about from other bloggers or new books by authors I love.

    And it leave space to read whatever else I want to read, just for me! We seem to do it the other way around: you read mostly review books whereas I try to read mostly my “own” books – although some months it doesn’t happen that way.

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 11:57:27

      I didn’t think it would be that way Judith (reading mostly review books) but the books I do choose are genuinely books I would pick up to read if I saw them on the shelves.

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  4. Sue Gerth
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 05:49:55

    I don’t really get any ARCS from authors through my blog. I work at a bookstore, so I get plenty of free stuff that way, and Netgalley is a great way to read upcoming titles, too. I post reviews based on what I want to read and share with others. I guess I’m lucky that way. I do write reviews for most of what I read on Netgalley because, like you, I feel like I have entered an agreement with them. I started a book blog because I love to read and talk about what I’m reading; this was based on what I buy myself or get from work. I have set a goal this year to have two reviews a week. This should be doable, since I read about 3 books a week. So far I have managed to keep that goal!

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 12:21:22

      I’ve always wanted to work in a bookstore Sue, though I’d probably be too busy reading to serve anyone LOL

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      • Sue Gerth
        Feb 05, 2012 @ 16:51:23

        The wonderful thing about working in a bookstore is you see everything new every week! And you get to stare at it for days and days, trying to decide if you want to read it. Plus, it’s a privilege to work surrounded by all those great books.

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  5. Birgit
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 06:12:41

    A penny for every time I see IMM posts with ten or more books for review every week … how on Earth do those bloggers tackle that amount? Answer: They don’t. I mean, it’s just not possible to review so many books unless you only skim through the first and last few pages, but I digress …

    I’m keeping my review pile very small. No more than five books from NetGalley (currently I have three to read), and no more than five physical books for review (only one waiting to be read right now). I just don’t need the stress of having huge piles (my own TBR stacks are scary enough as it is) and so far I haven’t been showered with any unsolicited books for review either (in other words after finishing a book from a certain publisher, I won’t ask for another one until my review’s up).

    Oh and I’m always lining them up by publication date, as many publishers don’t want to to post a review too early, and having a schedule does make things a lot easier.

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  6. Katrien & Ellen
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 06:43:12

    I also work with a shedule, but the problem is that it’s so hard to say no if I receive a request; So many books seem interesting and I can’t manage to read my books from the library anymore. That’s something I hate, because books of the library are books that are really chosen by myself and not because someone offerd them to me.
    I find it also easier to be honest when I review a book I have bought or borrowed myself, because I know there is no publisher or author who will read it and judge my opinion, altough I know that I’m not supposed to think that way!
    You have a great way of keeping track of what you read! My shedule is often messed-up and actually my memory is the best shedule for me.

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 12:33:36

      I also struggle with saying no because the book sounds so interesting. I have a dozen library books waiting to be read right now because I just couldn’t resist them. I’m trying hard to reign that in though

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  7. Patty
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 07:11:14

    That is one good plan!!!

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  8. 1girl2manybooks
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 09:29:21

    Well…. I don’t manage my TBR pile, to be honest! I’m one of those people that just acquires more than they read, although 95% of that is through purchases. ARC’s make up a tiny part of my reading and if they’re print copies, they tend to get priority around 2wks prior to release date. I’m more fluid with eBooks from NetGalley probably because I have a Kindle and they don’t expire. I can request a book from there that isn’t due to be published for 6 months and often it’s that long before I read it, or even a fraction longer. Even if it’s been published before I get to it, I still read and review it, etc.

    I’m a mood reader. I cannot and will not, schedule my reading other than say, 1-2 books a month that are either requirements for challenges or maybe a print ARC. I never know what I’m going to feel like reading on any given day and can spend an embarrassing amount of time staring blankly at my bookshelves/pile of library books/kindle page trying to decide what I feel like. Too much choice sometimes, but I tried the whole spreadsheet thing and scheduling books to read and I found that I started to resent them (the books) for looming there in order to be read! So I stopped that and went back to my old non-method of randomly selecting things to read!

    Just want to add that I really love this feature! It’s provoked some great discussions so far and I enjoy taking part.

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 12:41:15

      Thanks Bree 🙂 Scheduling definitely doesn’t work for everyone. Forcing yourself to read a book because you have to doesn’t lead to a good reading experience (think high school English LOL)

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  9. Lucy
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 09:34:33

    These are great tips that I should try to incorporate into my own schedule. It’s so easy for the list of review books to get out of control. I had a review calendar spreadsheet for awhile that helped but unfortunately I didn’t keep it updated. I’ll have to start that up again, because it does help with time management. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 12:43:04

      That’s why I made my schedule public on my blog Lucy because it forces me to keep it updated. Glad to have inspired you!

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  10. Tanya Patrice
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 10:49:58

    I absolutely love your Stuff on Sundays posts. I’m a relatively new book blogger, and unlike many, I don’t accept books to review and have no plans to – but I must say I have an AMAZING library system which gets new books as soon as they come out.

    For me, reading ahead is essential to pressure free blogging – that means what I’m reading now will be discussed a few weeks from now – and my posts are written a week or 2 in advance. That way, I don’t have to rush posts or worry about what I’m going to post the next day – and also since I do a lot of lists, it allows me time to write them up properly and research them instead of rushing.

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 12:50:02

      Thanks Tanya!
      I keep planning to get ahead but it never quite works out that way. I read a lot faster than I can get reviews done and so even though right now I have Monday and Tuesday scheduled I am still 4 reviews behind what I have actually read.

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  11. Sarah
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 18:50:42

    I keep a rough list of what I am going to read but I strongly feel that spontaneity is key. I like to read what the mood takes me and if, for example I have read a run of Scnadinavian crime novels, I just spread out the reviews over a couple of weeks, rather than my blog become too focused on one genre.

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 09, 2012 @ 16:25:24

      Since I’m a fairly eclectic reader having a variety of books reviewed doesn’t tend to be a problem for me.

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  12. Helene
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 08:32:42

    Fascinating insights both in your post and the replies, Shelleyrae. With more books being published and authors and their publishers clamouring for reviews it must be putting increasing pressure on reviewers…

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 09, 2012 @ 16:22:23

      It’s a good thing as long as you can stay in control Helene. Sadly my impulse control when it comes to books is pitiful LOl

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  13. Marg
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 11:34:08

    I use a spreadsheet to keep track of library due dates, Netgalley expiry dates and any books where I have given to review by a set date and that helps me see visually what is due to happen next.

    I think I probably let more than 10 review requests each week go through as Thanks but no thanks. There are just too many books coming out to be able to keep up with them all plus read the other books you want to read as well

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Feb 09, 2012 @ 16:21:20

      I struggle with that as well Marg, I usually get upwards of 20 requests a week from self published and small press authors. I have to be quite brutal in choosing which ones I will accept

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  14. The Australian Bookshelf
    Feb 07, 2012 @ 17:48:10

    Great post Shelleyrae, it’s interesting to hear how everyone manages their review pile and blogging schedule. I usually work from a printed month by month calendar where i schedule my posts and it usually forces me to get my reviews written up ASAP. At the end of last year I became quite overwhelmed by review requests and agreeing to too many reviews which resulted in a waiting list and stressful reading. This year i am trying a more moderated approach- having some self-control over accepting review copies from publishers and clicking too many ‘requests’ on netgalley. At the moment the publication date for print and electronic ARC’s usually prioritise them in my reading pile. As for self-pubbed books i’ve had to be much more stringent about what I accept because I read far less ebooks than i do print books. I also LOVE buying books so it’s nice to get to some of those on my shelf too 🙂
    As for today.. i was very happy to get my print review pile (from publishers) down to 2 and then I came home from work to find 2 more on my doorstep!
    Loving these Sunday discussions posts…it’s great to have everyone adding their thoughts 🙂

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