Recently, the New York Times ran an article about paid book reviews, which was, to put it politely, disheartening. It was not about reviewers getting paid, but getting paid to write raves, while often not even reading the books. And yesterday, I read about Twitterers paying people to follow them--1,000 followers not enough? Buy 9,000 more. Then I received an e-mail from someone asking about the honesty of Shelf Awareness reviews, saying we must be as vulnerable to this as Amazon or anyone else. Good question, and one that now, sadly, needs to be be answered.
We review good books, books we like, books we have discovered. Each week we publish 25 reviews of the best books just out, since we want to highlight books people will want to read. We aren't into lambasting and snark (although it can be tempting). So we have 70-plus reviewers--booksellers, librarians, bloggers, former publishers, a lawyer, a therapist.... They were chosen based on their discernment and writing ability; good humor, patience and flexibility are other attributes, because book reviewing does have its crazy moments.
We get galleys or ARCs, which are pre-publication editions of books. We send them to our reviewers well in advance of publication, according to the reviewers' subject preferences. The reviewers then decide which books they will cover, based on the quality of the book (or the phases of the moon--it's not an exact science). Sometimes I will suggest a book based on my personal inclination or on information they might not have yet, but that's it. They are also told to be critical when warranted, as long the bottom line tips toward the positive. We sometimes have a back-and-forth about decisions, usually ending with "Life's too short, move on to something else."
We provide honest book reviews, and have fun doing so. We value our integrity, because you expect and deserve nothing less than honest reviews, honest interviews, honest content. That's our promise. --Marilyn Dahl