I am announcing a new policy to which the staff of Confessions of a Small-Church Pastor will immediately adhere. Okay, I’m the only staff there is, so I am the one immediately adhering. Drum roll, please! Okay, here it is:
I will no longer review free books on this blog. If I review a book, you know that I paid for it myself.
It’s not that I don’t like free books, or don’t appreciate publicists and authors sending me free books, because I do on both counts. But, I have noticed that my gratitude for getting a freebie seeps into my review. I say all the positive stuff and just overlook the stuff with which I take issue.
Not that I review every book sent to me, which by now totals upwards of 25 or so. But, I do read them, at least until I get the gist of the book. At that point I have decided that either…
- a) this is a bunch of pop fluff; or,
- b) this is good and helpful stuff for me and my readers.
If a book meets the “good and helpful” test, then I have reviewed it, and I hope those reviews were both good and helpful. I have never given a positive review for a book I thought had real problems; and, I have never fudged on a review to say something that I did not think was true. I just left out the stuff that I took issue with. Which is not fair, good or helpful. So, in the words of Bob Newhart, “Just stop it!” — which I have done.
Here’s what I’m going to tell publicists and authors who want me to review their books:
Send me the book summary via email along with your pitch as to why this fits my readership. I will consider reviewing the book if the subject matter fits the editorial guidelines here (there are some, read below), and if the book is a resource useful to my small church community of readers and contributors.
Here are the editorial guidelines I use when writing, so most books would need to fit somewhere in here:
- I don’t do Bible studies, devotionals, scripture exegesis, doctrinal discussions, or other stuff that is found on sites that do all of that stuff better than I could. The closest I come to a Bible study or scripture interpretation is posting my sermons each week. I do that because other small church pastors preach each week, too, just like I do.
- I do offer practical insight into small church ministry, so if the book or resource fits that criteria, I stand a pretty good chance of buying it and reviewing it. Practical insight for ministry in a small church is a larger category than you might think, so don’t be discouraged.
- If I decide to review a book or resource, I’ll let the publicist/author know of my decision, and when the review will run. No advance peeks at the review, no approvals, nothing but notice of run date.
- I’ll buy the book myself (I buy lots of books — Amazon loves me!), so this is not as big an obstacle to getting reviewed as you might think.
That’s it — simple, straight-forward and clear, I hope. What do you think? Let me know if you think I’m nuts to turn down free books, or if you like the new policy. Thanks.