by Nancy Shiffrin
Author Nancy Shiffrin has been a free-lance Book Reviewer for the Los Angeles Times and various literary publications. She says, "For me, writing about books is part of my creative process, but not central as poetry is. I would suggest asking nicely and offering to send a PDF (of the book) and cover art. I would not suggest offering money, favors and/or reciprocity -- editors don't like that. A book review isn't PR. You can't control what the reviewer says, though you can help to correct factual errors. Very often, people I've reviewed or written about favorably have become disgruntled because I didn't seem like a very important person, or what I said wasn't exactly the thing they wanted said. (Below) is something I wrote in a very grumpy mood over writer's attitude problems. Maybe there is something in it which would be helpful to authors seeking reviews. Please enjoy!
- Remain as ignorant as possible about the concerns of staff literary editors, professional book reviewers, literary critics, free-lance writers.
- Hone your paranoia skills. Insist that there’s a conspiracy NOT to review your books and those of your friends. Come to believe that there’s a “deal” to write an encyclopedia of all significant poets and you and your friends are being deliberately left out.
- Harass people whose “aesthetic” is different from yours.
- Demand to be “perceived” as “the next Neruda”, “the next Sappho”, “the next Olson”, etc.
- Leave packages of books on the front steps of a reviewer's home, ring the doorbell and run away.
- Insist on “dropping by” a reviewer's home with your book when it is ordered. Claim all kinds of problems in mailing your book.
- Insist on transmitting a digital fileof your book.
- Tell the reviewer she must relinquish the rights to her own poetry and follow you and your group around writing magazine articles about them.
- Demand that the reviewer give up the rights to a literary prize because your husband won third and she won first in an Academy of American Poets college poetry competition 40 years ago.
- Demand that the reviewer profile an artist you like in The NewYork Times.
- Picket the Los Angeles Times. Demand to confront a reviewer who doesn’t work there.
- Demand to be known as “the pre-eminent” and only author on a particular subject. Insist that there are no other authors on the subject.
- Insist on your right to be the “designated author” of another’s work.
- Speak to reviewers in sound-bites, i.e., “a poem is just a movie in your mind”.
- Make disdainful remarks about a reviewers’ knowledge of literary movements. i.e., “do you even know who Ferlinghetti is?”
- Make accusations of racism, sexism, and/or other forms of political correctness.
- Tell the reviewer who her friends should be and who she should snub.
- Tell all your friends to snub the reviewer.
- Insist that a professional writer can’t also be a poet.
- Harass a reviewer about what she wrote 25 years ago.
- Harass a reviewer because the complimentary review she wrote about your book 25 years ago doesn’t compliment you for the right reasons.
- Invite the reviewer to dinner, then, as she is taking her first bite, berate her about the rights of any number of groups she might have left out of her dissertation.
- By all means threaten bodily harm if the review doesn't fulfill your fantasy.
by Nancy Shiffrin copyright 2010
Nancy Shiffrin is a poet, critic and teacher. She earned her MA studying with Anais Nin. She earned her PhD at The Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio studying Jewish-American Literature. Her work has won awards and honorable mentions from The Academy of American Poets, The Alice Jackson Foundation, The Poetry Society of America, The Pushcart Prizes, The Dora Teitelbaum Foundation. Through CREATIVE WRITING SERVICES her literary arts consultancy, she helps aspiring writers achieve publication and personal satisfaction.