So You Want To Write Reviews For SFCrowsnest?: what you need to know by: Geoff Willmetts.

July 28, 2019 | By | 14 Replies More

It might have come to your attention that we publish a lot of reviews at SFCrowsnest. Publishers either tend to notice this and offer us books or we’re on the lookout for books that fit the Science Fiction and its grey cousins, horror and fantasy, reader subject to the taste of our reviewers. This profile is important because, if you’re like us, you never just want the latest releases but a look at the books and such that got away. Doing that has stopped us looking like any other website or magazine out there and ultimately we serve everybody.

One thing we are always short of and could always do with more of is reviewers. People who have a love of books and will read whenever they have the chance. If you are one of those and can express an opinion as to whether you not only liked or disliked a book but explain why, then you should certainly consider seeing if you would like to be a reviewer.

The qualifications are rather simple. It’s the ability to be able to read at least one or more books a month and more importantly to be able to write about it afterwards. Reviewers of paper-based books will also have to live in the UK. Sorry, you lads and lassies who live abroad but there is an option to review ebooks as we’re on the Amazon arc.

more pulp

As most of you reading this are capable book readers, what will distinguish a reviewer is the ability to write the review and as such, this will be the determining factor when selecting reviewers. I will need to see a review of a book you’ve read recently together with a page count and a rough estimate of how long it took you to read it. If the review is of a book that is currently in print and we haven’t wrote about it previously, the review won’t be wasted and will be used on the site as well, so use our internal search engine to check its status. Please send only one review. That will tell me all I need to know as to your capabilities.

Unlike short stories and e-book samples, these samples will have to be replied as a yea or nay before taking it any further. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to get a lot of reviews to read through anyway. In the ‘nay’ category, you’ll have a brief form letter modified to hitting on where you went wrong and whether you should try again. Don’t be disappointed if you fall into the latter category. Reviewing is a singular skill and not everyone is capable of such assessments. If you take heed of the advice, you can always try again.

These reviews are to be e-mailed in, but NOT as attachments, than the traditional paper post if it’s to make our monthly deadline.

Below, is a list of guidelines on how to present your review. I’m not going to make any bones about this, IGNORE THEM AT YOUR PERIL!!! If you can’t follow simple instructions either above or below, then you’ll be no good to me.

The review format:

  1. Check over the reviews on site for examples of how other reviews were done. This doesn’t mean you should necessarily copy my or other reviewers’ style just understand the format and presentation. Being able to express yourself in sentences in a chatty way is an asset.
  2. Important info at the top or bottom of each review is the indicia: Book title. Author. Publisher. Number of pages and format – paperback enlarged paperback, hardback or whatever. Price – UK and other countries where appropriate – if listed. ISBN – this will usually be before the indice or on the back cover. If there are any associated websites noted in the indice, include these as well. A release date where noted in the bumf with the book should also be noted. I don’t always fully trust the info on-line and this is the way to counter errors.
  3. The review should be as long as it needs to be told. This doesn’t mean that you need to be overtly verbose. We have plenty of space but don’t want to bore the reader neither. Being concise and to the point is an advantage. It should contain a brief précis or summary of the plot without necessarily giving away the ending. The most important part of this is the reviewer’s opinion of the book. Is it any good? What are the faults? Even if it isn’t your personal favourite, suggest a readership who might find it appealing. You need to balance the good and the bad. There are always readers who will check out books that receive poor reviews to see if it was really that bad. From the publishers’ point of view, any review is better than being ignored.
  4. Start each paragraph by leaving two spaces. If your e-mail server removes these spaces, drop a line between paragraphs. Run it through your word processor’s word and grammar checker for the obvious mistakes before pasting it into your e-mail message box. DO NOT SEND AS ATTACHMENTS!!! I don’t like opening them and can contain viruses and if I have to, prefer TXT format which strips away any unnecessary code but please ask first.
  5. If you’re dealing with an anthology, then it would be impossible to note all the stories so pick some out. In such cases, hit the high and low spots of the book. Do the stories complement each other? Are any stories there purely to bring the page count up? Is the selection good or bad? Assessment is part of the task of being a reviewer.
  6. If you’re dealing with a non-fiction book and it’s a subject you know something about, check the factual details for anything that is obviously wrong. Is the book easy to read? Is it too technical for the novice to understand? Does it take an expert to read the book? Evaluation is yet another task of the reviewer.
  7. A précis of the plot without giving away too many spoilers or at least warn when you’re giving away something vital.
  8. Above all be honest in your opinions. If the book is dull, bland or plain dumb then don’t be afraid to say so. SFCrowsnest has a reputation for being honest in what we say and we review without prejudice. That is, we treat every book on an equal basis. Likewise, if you found it an obvious page turner that hits you for six then say so. It’s honest gut reaction we’re after combined with an informed opinion. You’re no good to me if you can’t say why you liked or disliked a book. Your review needs more than subjective adjectives, it needs considered opinions.
  9. As members of my own team will assure you, I have magic fingers when it comes to sorting out grammar mistakes and much of the time will only query if I spot something that doesn’t make sense or factually wrong. Even so, getting it mostly right saves a lot of time.
  10. Better still, you get to be seen on SFCrowsnest, the possibility of interviewing authors if you want to and something useful to add to your CV.What else do I need:-
  1. As this is a recruitment drive, I also need to know something about your preferences. What kinds of books you read or avoid? The same applies to authors. Are you into any series of books, then let me know as we do get later volumes some times. Those who say they read ‘anything’ and turn out that they can’t will find walking difficult for a while. If I get enough variety of tastes then there is less chance a reviewer gets an unfavoured subject.
  2. Put your name, home address, phone number and date at the end of the review. Your email address should already be there.
  3. Then be patient. I’ll be back to all who write. If I get a lot of replies, it might be long wait. A few days at most. I tend to be good at my job.We get books in Science Fiction and their grey cousins, fantasy and horror. There’s bound to be something to fit everyone’s taste and we do cover book series.Now, e-mailing me. So to avoid getting spam mail, my e-mail address below has a few words in it to fox automated e-mail name searchers. Remove the irreverent spaces and use the correct e-mail address. If you don’t do that then I won’t receive your review: letters @            Remember:-                                    Assessment                                    Opinion Geoff Willmetts 2019
  4. editor:
  5. Don’t forget to read the other guidelines related to the mistakes I often see so that you don’t make them neither. Link:
  6. Honesty
  7. Evaluation
  8. Précis
  9. In the subject column put the legend: ‘This is a test review for SFCrowsnest’.
  10. The biggest bonus, especially in the current world of recession, you get a book free for the price of a review which will help anyone’s personal budget right now. It will also make things easier to branch out into other things like interviewing writers and other writing pursuits, especially as I can show you the ropes on this as well.

Category: Culture

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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