Housekeeping: How book reviews work around here

I’ve been getting some questions from publicists, authors, and readers about how I handle book reviews here (not in my professional work elsewhere, as for example in Bitch Magazine), so I’m collecting what I hope are most of the answers here for your convenience. If your questions are not answered, ping me and I’ll do my best.

1. Can I send you things for review?

Yes, you can! My mailing address is available in a number of places, but for your convenience I’ll list it here as well: s.e. smith | PO Box 2764 | Fort Bragg, CA 95437. You can also reach me via email (sesmith at realsesmith dot com) if you want to check in before sending something or have a question. I do not accept electronic galleys except in very rare circumstances (sorry).

Readers may note that when I review books sent to me for that purpose, I include an FTC disclosure on those posts. If a post lacks such a disclosure, it means that I acquired the book independently for review. Other than books themselves, I don’t accept compensation or consideration from authors, publishers, and publicists, and although I do sometimes review my friends, they don’t get special treatment.

2. Will you review anything I send you?

No. I select books to review on the basis of several criteria, starting with whether I enjoy them and/or think they are worthy of critical discussion. I generally don’t review books I do not enjoy, unless there’s a specific issue I want to talk about, because ‘I don’t like this’ doesn’t add to the body of discussion surrounding a book. I don’t always review books I love, because if I don’t have anything to say other than ‘this book is super great,’ that’s not adding anything either.

Additionally, you may note that I tend to review particular kinds of books here, and sending me books outside those genres probably won’t result in a review. For example, I review very little romance. That doesn’t mean I won’t review romance (I read a lot of it!) or that I think romance is garbage (see previous parenthetical), but I’m not a romance reviewer. Likewise, Westerns and mysteries aren’t usually my jam — but there are always exceptions.

3. Okay so what kinds of books do you want?

My focus is on diverse and inclusive fiction, leaning heavily in the young adult direction. I read across genres in YA (fantasy, science fiction, and really good contemporaries are my jam for the most part), and I read mostly SFF adult titles (again, there are exceptions). I like books that are smart, funny, and thoughtful. I like books written by diverse creators that have inclusive storylines. I love retellings. I love creepy, weird, hauntingly beautiful books. I like unsettling books. I love alt history that takes things in new and interesting directions. Send me an alt history starring the Chinese community in 1840s California! Send me steampunk set in India! Send me retellings of Nigerian folktales!

Some perennial favourites, to give you an idea of things I like to read: The Kingdom of Little Wounds, Riverkeep, Sea Change, About A Girl, The Sparrow, Lagoon, The Summer Prince, Dumplin’, Bleeding Violet, Bitterblue, Holly Black’s Curseworkers Trilogy, and anything by Sarah Rees Brennan.

4. What about nonfiction?

I read a lot of it, I generally don’t review it except in very specific circumstances. If you have leftist commentary or theory you want to send my way, I’m happy to read it, but the probability that I will review it is quite low. If you have some nonfiction you desperately want me to review, you should probably email me first.

5. How long does it take for you to review books/how come I see something on your Instagram and you don’t write about it for months?

My backlog on this ain’t livin’ is generally about two to three months long. If you want coverage to coincide with a pub date or other special event, make sure to give me enough lead time. Elsewhere, I often pitch and write reviews much more quickly (because people pay me to write for them). If you’re trying to arrange coverage for a given pub date, it still helps to have some lead time to discuss the editorial schedule and the best time to run it with my editor.

6. I know you do book reviews in other places, what are your policies there?

I do in fact do book coverage (including author interviews) elsewhere on the internet. If I’m passionate about a book and/or author I may reach out to an editor to see if I can place some coverage there. I cannot guarantee that this will happen. Sometimes people send me books for coverage here that I end up covering elsewhere. Sometimes the opposite happens. That depends on what my editors are interested in, the editorial calendar, and a lot of other factors that I don’t control. I don’t currently have a standing review column anywhere, though that may change in the future.

7. What do you do with arcs and finished copies when you don’t want them or are done with them?

I donate them to educators and librarians in low-income school districts. If you want to be on the distribution list, drop me an email and I’ll put you in line for a book grab bag.