Check out the transcript for our last reviewer chat on SLJ reviews editorial process, from start to finish. It took place on Wednesday, May 24th.
hey all, happy that some people are already joining!
say hello as you join.
Maggie here. Slightly multitasking, as year winds down….
This is Shelley, SLJ reviews manager and YA editor
Hello from rainy Mansfield, Ohio!
Hello from Bellevue, WA (near Seattle)!
Today we’ll be chatting about SLJ reviews Editorial Process, from Start to Finish
Hello from Lexington, KY.
Hello from Worthington, Ohio
Anderson, South Carolina here :slightly_smiling_face:
Hello from Arlington, VA!
Hello from Berkeley, CA!
Hello! Katy here from Hadley, MA
Hello from the Southern Tier of New York state
Hello from Texas
Hello from Charlotte, NC!
SLJ reviews editors are based in NYC
set the channel topic: Hello, I’m Lonna Pierce, and I review media for SLJ. I’m from Binghamton, NY.
So as you may imagine, we receive thousands of books a day
Hi, this is Anne from Plymouth, NH
Hi from Nassau County NY — Marie
set the channel topic: Hello, I’m Lonna Pierce, and I review media for SLJ. I’m from Binghamton, NY.
Hello from chicagoland
@sdiaz101 How do you sort through all those books and decide which to reivew??
Luckily, we have wonderful a book room assistant and editorial assistant to help open them
I don’t know how to get rid of the old posts here…
We automatically shelve books that wouldn’t work for a public library or school library setting
and then our bookroom staff sorts according to editor
What types of books would that include? Books intended for research? Adults
Adult bks, color books, novelty
Or reprints of older books
novelty books, adult books that aren’t professional reading or have teen appeal
Hello, Lucia here
Then they sort according to editor/category: I do YA and some bilingual/spanish books
I can’t hear; no audio
3 months ago View thread
I assign nonfiction k-12
I do professional reading, graphic novels, reference, and adult books 4 teens
I’m in Bellmore, NY, with a rare hour free.
@stefanie.n.hughes this is a chatroom-type chat only
so glad you could join! @patricia
Well, that explains it. Thanks :slightly_smiling_face:
@dfarrell Oh! I just got an assignment from you then!
Is Kent Turner here?
No, Kent is Cannes. So glamorous
9 months, then graphic novels here I come. :smile:
do older reviewers get the prime books? LOL
How does one know if our reviews are good? I often get the same types of book s and am wondering why.
@alea_p Can’t wait to assign you some more graphic novels!!!
@dabron we give veteran reviewers big titles because they’re seasoned.
@mldrucker17 We don’t always have time to talk to reviewers about their reviews, but we would definitely suggest reading the final copy in the magazine to see what, if anything, we’ve tweaked.
Do reviewers only get assigned to one editor? For example, I usually work with Shelley.
Hi, all from Texas
@dabron once new reviewers get their feet wet a bit, we start to assign other titles.
Mais, je voudrais etre en Cannes! Moi, je parle francais!
I was over the moon when I got a teen Jodi Picoult book to review. Felt like I had finally made it!
Hello from Ohio!
I haven’t had an assignment for a while and I’d like to know wjo my editor is
It’s kind of a like a matchmaking process. We have a HUGE Reviewer Google Doc with all of our reviewers’ preferences
Are we able to update preferences?
hi from North Carolina!
This is Ragan from Brooklyn. How much do I have to agonize about making a review the desired word count? Can I be confident that an editor with fresh eyes can cut it w/o being too annoyed at me? (20-30 words–let’s say?)
Is the star rating totally at the discretion of the reviewer or do editors recommend a star if they want to.
@romalley Hi, Ragan! 20-30 over isn’t a huge deal. We can usually edit that down. But if you get into the 300+ range, that tends to be harder on the editors; we have to do a lot of cutting and we might cut something YOU think is really important.
Each editor has a different process. I like to go about once a week to my shelf and grab a stack a books, putting high priority titles on top. I also try to get as many books with looming pubdates
@dabron We ask that reviewers recommend books for a star and we hold that rec in high regard. But we do have a stars commitee that meets 3x a month. Most decisions are via consensus.
@dabron I’ve had the editors feel a star was appropriate for a book when I didn’t recommend it, but I was fine with it. It’s so subjective
Do you aim for a certain percentage of starred reviews overall?
Oooh a Stars Committee!
It’s easier when reviewers’ profiles are specific. Ex. I’d like to review MG speculative fiction or nonfiction about science, etc.
How do we see our reviews? I’ve submitted several but I haven’t seen them in print.
What are the distinguishing qualities between a new reviewer and a seasoned one? Where do new reviewers usually need to improve?
After reviewing for so many years, I can tell just about immediately what is deserving of a star. They really stand out, particularly if beautifully written or produced.
@sdiaz101 I don’t remember what I’ve asked to review, where is that kept?
We review about 300 materials a month, and we just don’t have the mechanism to alert a reviewer when they’re reviews run.
@stefanie.n.hughes One thing seasoned reviewers do very well is that balance b/w describing a book and letting readers know what’s noteworthy (or flawed) about it. And being able to tell if a book is really distinguished compared w/ others in the field, or whether it’s really more of additional purchase.
@afro75 I’ve looked at my account online and it’s shown which issue the review has run in (or, in some cases, a blank – I assume those were books that weren’t deemed worth publishing).
*reviews, not books
@stefanie.n.hughes Every reviewer is different. Editors try to work individually as much as we can, but often it takes at least a year of reviewing (about 12 books) to get the swing of things.
stefanie.n.hughes Newer reviewers often need a help moving beyond plot summary
Hi Luann here. We do like to check back with the reviewers about the star potential if we love a book before we go ahead and bestow one.
Are there any reviews that you end up just simply not publishing?
Several of mine, over the years, have not been published.
Sorry I am late. Had a dr’s appointment.
What can we do as reviewers to make y’alls job easier?
@katyk Good question. I’d like to know the answer to that too :slightly_smiling_face:
Once a book is assigned, it’s shipped within the next few days. We often give a month deadline. Then, when you submit your reviews, the database gives the editorial assistant or assigning editor an emailed ping.
@lacosta Sometimes if I query a reviewer about their review and I don’t hear back, I’ll hold off on publishing the review
@katyk Double checking factual details (character/people’s names, locations, dates) is hugely helpful!
We try to get back to reviewers if there is a problem with a review or an offbase evaluation. With our deadline schedule it is not always possible, and if a review is too old we sometimes just skip it.
@mahnaz you mean for non-fiction, right?
Before, if a review came in too late to include in the print issue, we wouldn’t run a review. However, we now have xpress reviews, so those reviews get to be published online.
Oh is that how you decide what’s xpress and what’s print?
@jsimmons No, for fiction, too. There are lots of factual errors that can crop up in a review of fiction (a character’s name, where a character lives, etc.), so double checking those details before you turn them in is highly recommended!
Do all reviews go to Ingram, Baker & Taylor, etc?
Exactly! Xpress reviews are licensed just like any other review. The only other distinction from print is that these are post-pubdate reviews.
Is there a way to find out when our next book is coming?
What is the process for evaluating reviews once you get them?
We’ve even had stars on our xpress reviews.
I see my reviews published on AMazon and now Boston Public Library. Is it okay to post published ones on my blog?
I’ve noticed sometimes that Amazon hasn’t cited a negative review: probably standard practice, since they want to sell books.
Yes, that’s fine @bonnie10
Anytime there is a query, we try to get right back to the reviewer, but sometimes we need to actually read the book, which takes a while. We’re sorry for the delay but it is best not to submit a review if you have any outstanding issue .
@amjung once you receive a reviews notification email, you should receive about a week after. If you don’t feel free to ping Ashleigh or your editor
If indeed you need to add a concern or edit a submitted review, it’s best to just email one of us.
And if you haven’t received a review assignment in a long time, it’s because we’re in the middle of editing for our “Batching” deadline.
Usually, mine just show up in my mailbox! (No prior e-mail.)
@carla_r I usually read the review and dip into the book just to get a better understanding. I’ll edit for clarity and SLJ style (ital book titles, series comma, etc.). If i have any questions that the book cannot answer I will then email the reviewer.
What are some of your complaints about submitted reviews or things reviewers do that bug you?
Batching usually happens about 5-6 weeks before an issue. We have to edit as many reviews as possible before that date.
Thanks @dfarrell !
@lonnastory You should be getting an automatic email when a book is assigned. If you’d like to make sure we have the correct email on file, you can send us an email. (u can email me at email@example.com or ashleigh at firstname.lastname@example.org)
So we’re often hunkering down over our desks editing for that date, and neglect assigning.
But feel free to ping/nudge your editor. We don’t mind :wink:
@jsimmons One little thing we’d advise is to vary up your word choice. A lot of the times a reviewer might use the word “fascinating” more than once in a review, and that’s something we’d end up revising in edits.
First thing I check when editing a review is if a reviewer has included a Grade level and VERDICT
@mahnaz Thank you. That is a little thing. I see that about Grade level and VERDICT too. Keep going. We’re here to learn :slightly_smiling_face:
@mahnaz I like to read my reviews aloud to catch that sort of thing. To me, repeated words and awkward sentence structure are much more obvious when I hear them.
reading it out loud always helps me too
@m_tidman Good idea, Misti! I often do the same thing when I’m proofreading, to look for very hard to find typos and the like.
Check out the transcript from our last chat about important details about the anatomy of reviews https://contributors.slj.com/2017/05/slj-reviewer-chat-transcript-from-february-2017-anatomy-of-an-slj-review/
Oh: I thought the grade level was now preset in the fixed field of the online form. Can I change it there, or should I put my two cents in the body of the review?
Do folks recommend read-alike titles that they have not actually read? I admit I do on occasion, but it would be a book I am familiar with.
Feel free to suggest grade levels, even if the book is the wrong section. That’s super helpful @patricia
@tara I have but only because I had the plot painstakingly described to me by a 12 year old patron so I felt like I knew the book fairly well
@patricia Also our database isn’t super comprehensive. for instance, there are only two sections for nonfiction (elementary and middle to high school)
Editors do their deepest edit in the pre-Batching and post-Batching phases
you can indeed comment on the grade level in the review or the notes field. It’s fine to duplicate it. We can remove it if necessary.
This is when we try to communicate with reviewers about any clarifications that are needed, plot holes, requests for more evaluation, etc.
Hi all. Getting here very late. I’m Kiera, the reviews director for LJ and SLJ. [waves hi to everyone]
The next part of the process is the Second Edit. That’s when another editor now takes a look at each section as whole to look for broader changes and more clarification.
This second edit is where we fine tune verdicts, tackle larger grammar issues, like dangling modifiers, etc.
What happens if a reviewer never submits a review does that book just never get review or do you have an army of quick backup reviewers?
Second editors are the fresh eyes, so this phase is super helpful because someone is looking at the reviews with fresh eyes.
“Covered in ketchup, the boy enjoyed the hot dog.”
Sorry! Phone call delayed my joining until now.
For due dates, do you prefer a certain time on that day? First thing in the morning, close-of-business, midnight?
We often have to reassign books and will do them in house if they are going to be extremely late.
@sharon3 no worries! thanks for joining
We also start looking for trends in that month’s reviews, book cover images and art we want to feature, etc.
@katyk We try to get back to the reviewer if they are overdue. If they are unable to do the book, we reassign it to someone else. Sometimes if we’re really in a hurry, we might have the book reviewed in house. If the book review ends up being very late, it might go into Xpress Reviews.
@tara I definitely have – but only if there are positive reviews from sources I trust (SLJ, Booklist, Kirkus, etc.) so I feel like I can defend the recommendation. It’s impossible (for me, anyway) to read enough to feel like I can do a good job with that drawing only on my personal reading experience.
@katyk If it’s a “big” or important title, the assigning editor tries to keep tabs on the status and will often send out an overdue notice, trying to prompt the reviewer to submit. But if something happens and the reviewer is unable to do it, we decide if it’s worth re-assigning the book to another reviewer. If it’s a super important title, we might review it in-house (ie, an editor would review it themselves).
@jennie_rothschild I have no preference :slightly_smiling_face:
We have our editorial assistant double-check bibliographic info as we finalize the reviews, so that @mahnaz can start the proofing stage
@mahnaz is grammar guru, so be sure to check out her tips https://contributors.slj.com/category/style-and-grammar/
Thanks, @sdiaz101! :slightly_smiling_face:
In the final stage, when books are the page and the layout is done by our wonderful production designer makes everything look pretty
And don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you notice that a book’s title or an author’s name is wrong in the database. that is always super helpful!
I was told at SLJ’s Basecamp that kids are totally done with big fat dystopian trilogies. Is that possibly true?
We might have to cut reviews or add reviews because we overestimated or underestimated page space.
@ilovespicturebooks my patrons are! It’s all about spy novels now
at our final stars meeting, we debate our final stars list.
@katyk Really? Name some spy novels that your patrons like, please
we also create our popular picks page.
@jsimmons let’s see, there’s the ally carter series
red coat girls is another series
3 months ago View thread
And make sure there aren’t any weird line breaks and typos. and voila!
And then we have to do it all over again for the next issue! :slightly_smiling_face:
Oooh what was the one that just came out… Love Interest?
Throughout, we try to communicate with our reviewers. So please feel free to reach out if you ever have a question
How far in advance of publication of an issue are you laying it out and making final decisions?
I have to reiterate how important it is to talk about the art in a picture book. Also in a graphic novel.
We’ll be batching reviews for our July issue this week.
So in short, we’re always editing. lol
yes, well said, @ilovespicturebooks
I think most editors assign deadlines, keeping in mind which issue we hope the review runs in.
Our goal is to get review in 2-3 months ahead of pubdate, but that isn’t always possible.
especially with the more art-heavy books
If you think you might be late with a review or you know you will need an extension don’t hesitate to email
Any more questions about the editorial process?
We also do roundups (Back to School, Halloween, Board books) so we sometimes hold reviews to batch together.
If a book has an amazing cover, can we recommend it to be shown in SLJ or have you decided that ahead of time?
When reviewing sequels, what’s most imp to incl? I’ve felt before like my reviews have sounded too similar w/sequels.
@beth_parmer I think librarians are more interested in if a book can standalone, or when in relation to the previous book, the new installment takes place
@beth_parmer As a reader of reviews, it’s super helpful to know if the book stands on its own (i.e. set in the same world, but featuring different characters) or if it’s necessary to read the first book to understand/appreciate the second.
@beth_parmer if it follows a similar format or if it’s something totally different
It’s probably safe to say that most people are familiar with the plot of the previous book, so no need to summarize too much @beth_parmer
@katyk Sure–you can put that in the Notes field. We usually don’t decide on those things until after we do a first edit. It’s usually a mix of the titles that have gotten a star, are noteworthy in some way, or, like you say, have a really nice cover!
sometimes I don’t want to know/read review for previous books in a sequel because I have to fight hard for my own voice and my own opinion
I’ve noticed you now try to have the same reviewer review books in a series. That wasn’t always the case, but it makes it easier for us as reviewers.
I can’t stress enough, Notes field is your friend. If there’s a problematic issue, or if you want to give us a reasoning for why you want to star something, that’s the best place to do it
yes, we definitely try to assign to previous reviewer of a series, if that person is available. :slightly_smiling_face:
Even if it’s just a feeling that something might be problematic, it’s worth mentioning
yes, better safe than sorry
@stefanie.n.hughes @sharon3 yeah, we do try, whenever possible, to assign sequels to the person who reviewed the previous book(s). But sometimes that person isn’t available. If it’s the type of sequel that can stand alone without knowledge of the previous installment, we’re more likely to assign it to someone “new.”
@kparrott – Makes sense!
And, please remember, most of you are reviewing ARCs and F&Gs, so if you notice grammar/spelling errors, feel free to mention. We can double-check with the publisher if the changes have been made in the finished book
Do you ever pass on to the publisher something mentioned in the notes (but not in the review) that might be helpful to that publisher? Probably not enough hours in the day . . .
If there’s enough time to correct, we do! And they have made corrections, if not in the first issue, certainly in the second printing
Looks like we’re winding down. Any last questions?
Thank you so much for this. Looking forward to seeing some of you at ALA!
Not from me, but thank you for your time!
Thank you – this was very interesting!
Thank you. As always very helpful
Not sure if Shelley already mentioned, but for anyone going to ALA, we’re hosting a party for reviewers!
It’s Sunday evening from 4:30 to 6:30. In walking distance to where the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet will be held.
Thank you all!
Is anyone coming to Day of Dialog?
Always helpful info and sharing. Thanks!
If you didn’t already get an evite, email me! email@example.com
Wish I could go to ALA! Thanks for the chat (and thank you for changing up the days they’re held: that makes it more likely that I can participate at least occasionally).
Thanks, @kparrott . Yes, please join if you’ll be in Chicago