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Black Static


Dos and Don'ts

11th Jul, 2010

Author: Peter Tennant

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Everybody seems to be drawing up their own lists of rules for writing, online codes of behaviour, ways to milk an iguana and other stuff, so I thought I'd compile my own little list of things people can do (or should avoid doing) to keep the Black Static reviewer sweet, in the probably forlorn hope that somebody will actually care or pay attention. Besides, I don't have a lot else to write about at the moment.

1) Do send contact details when you forward a book for me to review. It seems obvious I know, but there are people who don't, so then when the magazine is published and I come to send out Case Notes PDFs I have to go haring all round the internet trying to find out how to contact them. I only hare so far, and then I don't bother any more. And if your contact details also contain a bit of information about the book, such as when it's published, that's even better, as otherwise I have to rely on amazon and amazon is not always right.

2) Don't send me books to review that are so long in the tooth parts of the text are still in the original Latin. If it's more than nine months old, then I'm afraid the window of opportunity for a review in Black Static has been and gone. I'm not going to kick a current release out of bed to make way for something that's POD and therefore, in theory at least, still as available and fresh today as it was on the day in 2005 when you first uploaded the file to lulu.

3) Black Static is a horror magazine and, although I will look at related genres and disciplines such as 'dark crime' (new marketing niche - you heard it here first), please don't send me anything that falls totally outside that remit. Recently I've been sent historical novels about King Arthur, a biography of Alan Bates, tie ins to Star Wars and Heroes, none of which are in the ball park. That's H-O-R-R-O-R. If in doubt feel free to query me via

Rules 2) and 3) can be relaxed slightly for writers who have had work published in Black Static, but only slightly, and entirely at my own discretion.

4) To expand upon the above, do query stuff with me. It makes me feel wanted. And if it's news then I'll have a White Noise item, which works out very well for both us. I feel absurdly grateful to people who send me White Noise items.

5) But don't ask me if I'll interview you for Black Static. Seriously, don't. It denotes a lack of class. Yeah, yeah, I know it's the me me me generation and God helps those who help themselves, but there's such a thing as being too pushy and I was raised with a 'those who ask, don't get' kind of ethic. Besides, I almost never make decisions about who to interview in advance, as I don't know what other books I'll have in the kitty and which ones I'll like. If you really think you're worth interviewing and that it won't occur to me without a nudge, then at least have the nous to get your publisher's PR person to put in a request rather than doing it yourself. PR people are paid to be pushy.

6) Don't throw a hissy fit or argue about how many typos can dance on the head of a pin when I point out that the book has more errors than the trade can reasonably bear. Hire a proof reader. In fact, hire me. I won't be able to review you any more as that would constitute conflict of interest, but at least your unreviewed texts would have fewer errors in them. (Better still, hire Mike Alexander as he picked up the error I made.)

7) Do send me an acknowledgement when I forward you a Case Notes PDF. Actually it's not strictly necessary, but if I don't hear anything back from 'the reviewed' and/or their publishers I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering why not. Did I say something in the review they took exception to? Did they not receive the PDF? Are they ungrateful wretches? Conversely, those who do send me an acknowledgement are people who I remember fondly, though on that score it would be good if the acknowledgement didn't contain any snide remarks.

These next two are very important, the kind of dos and don'ts that will ensure I never bother to review your work again if you contravene them. I'm hardass, me.

8) Do remember the reviews in Black Static are copyright. You are permitted 'fair usage', meaning you can quote portions of the review in your efforts to promote the book, and we encourage you to do that, especially if you also link back to Black Static, but you are not permitted to copy and paste the review in its entirety or a substantial chunk to your blog or a message board, or anywhere else for that matter. If you do that then I won't review anything by you in future, though I will cheerfully continue to accept work from you even though I have no intention of doing anything with it other than selling it on e-Bay or down the charity shop. It's called payback.

9) If you don't like my review then please don't run off to a message board or take to your blog with the intention of tearing me a new one. I get it that people don't like bad reviews, and as far as that goes I don't like them myself. I don't expect anyone to be happy if I pan their book but, factual matters aside, it is a matter of opinion, and we all have to accept the good with the bad. I have no problem with criticism of reviews (reviewers are writers just like the people they review, and not above criticism), but when that veers over into personal abuse and smear tactics it's something I have no time for. People who conduct themselves in that manner won't be reviewed by me again. So, if you want to take a dig at me then feel free to do so, but first be certain that you won't ever write a book that I'll like any better than the one I've just panned.

10) In fact, don't go taking pops at reviewers in general. It's not pretty and does you little good. Occasionally I see writers attacking reviewers, and the first thought that runs through my head is not 'that poor writer is so justifiably upset the silly reviewer hasn't recognised their genius, and I'd better make sure that I praise the book so matters can be put right'. It's something more along the lines of 'this egotistical twerp can't deal with criticism gracefully and I don't see any reason to risk running foul of their spite by reviewing the book myself'. Reviewers do an often difficult job, at least those who review conscientiously instead of simply jotting down a few plot points and ladling out dollops of praise like it was going out of fashion. If writers and publishers solicit their opinions by sending material for review, then they should respect the reviewer's work even if it isn't as positive as they'd prefer, instead of turning into giant babies who throw all their toys out of the pram if they don't like what they hear.

There's a few more things I could mention, such as do enclose cherry brandy liquors with all review copies, but it's midday and I need to be thinking about lunch, so this is your lot for now.



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