FAQs from Reviewers, Update October 2016
- Who does what on VOYA’s staff and who do I contact regarding reviews?
Reviewers work mostly with me, Lisa Kurdyla, reviews editor. I handle reviewer applications; assign books to reviewers; edit reviews; and proofread for our EIC (see below) when needed; I oversee anywhere from 150 to 200 volunteer reviewers. I query reviewers whenever I need clarification or further information for a submitted review. I am generally under strict deadlines when I contact you, and I would very much appreciate your timely response. Contact me with questions about your review assignments and deadlines, address changes, and other adjustments in your job or situation. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can call me anytime at (301)805-2191.
RoseMary Ludt, editor in chief, is VOYA’s resident former YA librarian, overseeing the editorial content and general direction of VOYA; updating, maintaining, and otherwise making wonderful the VOYA website; acquiring articles; hiring columnists and writers; writing editorials; covering conferences; preparing and writing all the annual booklists; and planning future growth for the magazine. Contact RoseMary if you have ideas for a VOYA article or booklist (see submissions guidelines on our Web site). Her e-mail is email@example.com
Edward Kurdyla, publisher, makes it all happen. He is responsible for ensuring that all the management aspects of the magazine are taken care of so that a magazine is possible every issue. He is also the one who will help you if you need to change the address on your VOYA subscription. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
VOYA works with a host of talented other staff as well. From our designer to our printer to our ad reps to our assistants to our proofreaders and office staff, VOYA has many dedicated people helping to make sure our readers get the best journal for their needs.
And then there are our dedicated, amazing reviewers. Without you, VOYA‘s heart wouldn’t beat.
- How often do I receive books to review?
You will receive two books at a time, with about four weeks lead time for each review. I ask that you let me know when you receive the books (just drop me an email so I know the books didn’t end up in the USPS black hole). It sometimes happens that a reviewer doesn’t get books for a couple of months. This is because the books have been lost in the black hole. Never wait MONTHS to contact me if you are without review books.
At this pace, our reviewers are reviewing about twelve books per year. There are times when you may have more, or less, but in the end it generally averages twelve reviews printed per year per reviewer. Some of our more passionate reviewers want to review more frequently, and that is great! Just let me know if you need or want additional books to review.
If you find that this system of receiving books does not work for you, let me know. I will work with you to find the right pace.
We understand when real life intrudes upon your career as a VOYA reviewer. If you experience a busy period at work, are asked to be on a committee, have a baby, take an extended trip, become ill, or are otherwise unable to review for a while, ask for a temporary leave of absence. Please anticipate as far ahead as possible, so you don’t have to send books back to us unreviewed. I am always very happy when a reviewer on hiatus returns to our team.
- What do I do if I cannot meet a review deadline?
As soon as you receive a new review book, check your calendar to make sure our assigned deadline fits your schedule. If it doesn’t, please contact me immediately. I might ask you to return the book right away so we can assign it to another reviewer. If you need a brief extension and that works for VOYA’s schedule, I will give you a new due date.
I try to accommodate any reasonable request. In the words of VOYA‘s founder, Dorothy M. Broderick, “What is not acceptable is ‘sitting’ on a book until it is too late for us to get it reviewed in a reasonably timely fashion.” VOYA has lost the opportunity to review some important young adult titles because reviewers occasionally have not responded to deadlines or have disappeared without letting me know. This is unprofessional and may result in VOYA readers missing out on important information.
We owe publishers, authors, and VOYA readers the courtesy of reviewing books as soon as possible. When one issue is complete, we have eight weeks to prepare the next. When we delay or miss reviewing essential YA titles because of missed deadlines, our viability in our professional arena is compromised.
- What if the match VOYA makes between me and my review book isn’t right?
If you feel that you cannot or would really really rather not review a particular title we send, contact me as soon as you know—so we can figure out a solution. Everyone has biases that he or she cannot overcome, authors they despise, subjects they avoid, or areas in which they feel over their heads. We make every effort to follow your checklist specifications, but sometimes books don’t fit neatly into categories. Often, we haven’t discovered what you cannot review yet, just what you can. Email me so we can discuss where the checklist didn’t work, or what I might have overlooked, and you can make your preferences more specific. The more I get to know you and the reviews you produce, the better book matches we can make.
Update your checklist as often as necessary by letting me know if an author you once loved, you now cannot abide, or if you have a new area of interest. If you change jobs, we’d appreciate an update because a new job often broadens your professional expertise. Please keep me up-to-date with your address so books are not being sent all over the place and deadlines are being missed.
- What if I judge that my review book is outside what VOYA reviews?
Contact me immediately. Publishers’ estimated age ranges can be unreliable. They seek to sell a book to the widest possible audience. By examining press releases, jacket copy, and the book itself, VOYA chooses for review those books that appear to be of teen interest. Only you, the reviewer who reads the book (or part of it), can tell if it actually fits with VOYA’s audiences.
If, after reading the book, you decide that it is too young, too old, or for some reason entirely lacks appeal or value for anyone in the range of grades six to twelve, ages twelve to twenty-three (NA), please inform me before writing a review. We can discuss the problem with the book and decide if a review is a viable option or not.
We do print negative reviews, but VOYA‘s limited space is dedicated to books targeting the teenager, whether publishers issue them for youth or adults. If a book misses the target, such as an adult mystery lacking teen appeal, it need not take room in VOYA, and you need not write a review we can’t use. In any case, please consult me with your concerns.
If you are really stumped as to whether or not a certain book holds interest for teens, your best bet is to test it on a real live teen (or several) for their opinions. You might be surprised by their responses.
- How are adult books for young adults handled in VOYA reviews?
VOYA relies heavily on our reviewers’ expertise to judge which adult books can be cross-overs for YA readers. Anyone who works with teens and reading knows that most teenagers over fourteen read adult books, too. There’s a real knack to guiding teens to those adult books of most appeal and worth among the huge array of adult books published; VOYA readers seek our advice in this YA readers’ advisory challenge.
Since VOYA began in 1978, it has always included adult books of interest to teens alongside young adult books. We have added the adult designation, A/YA, to our grade level interest rating (see our Book Review Code bookmark) to point out these books for our readers. If you review an adult-marketed title with cross-over YA appeal, you must still pinpoint the YA grade levels the title will appeal to, adding A/YA to indicate it is an adult-marketed book.
**** A/YA DOES NOT MEAN A YA TITLE THAT ADULTS WILL LIKE TOO!! ****
VOYA assumes adults will probably like ALL the really good YA titles out there anyway.
- You have found a book you love that VOYA needs to review that wasn’t assigned to you. What do you do?
EMAIL ME! I love field recommendations! If you come across a book that you feel deserves to be reviewed by VOYA, just email me about it. We’ll talk about it, and make the decision together. I will gratefully accept a review of any book that should be VOYA-reviewed as long as I have not already sent it for review. Do keep in mind date of publication. VOYA doesn’t review fiction titles over six months past publication date, unless there is a HUGE reason to do so.
- How do I choose Q and P ratings?
Your Book Review Code explains our Quality (Q) and Popularity (P) (appeal) ratings. The code explanations are also on the first page of reviews, at the top in a black box, in every issue of VOYA.
VOYA is the only review journal that recognizes the need to balance literary quality with the appeal quotient of books for a young adult audience. Be as fair as possible in your ratings, keeping in mind your personal tendencies. Are you often too laudatory or too critical? Use the highest (5) and lowest (1) ratings sparingly. Consult with teens if you cannot determine popularity on your own. Your words within your review must always justify the rating.
Point of interest: The 4P rating seeks to overcome overuse of 2P when reviewing genre titles. All genre interest could be termed “special interest” and therefore a 2P, but with the popular genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, 4P can be used as its definition is written: “Broad general or genre appeal.” A 4P book can have either general appeal to all types of readers, or wide appeal to genre readers. Please apply the 5P rating broadly as well. “Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday” refers to both YA genre readers and generic YA readers.
- How can I avoid being a censor in my reviews?
Please read carefully the document in your reviewer kit titled, “How to Avoid Reviewer Censorship.” If you are in any doubt as to how to apply these principles to your particular review, email me and we will figure it out together. Please also see VOYA’s “Diversity/Sensitivity Guidelines.”
- How do I handle books in a series?
If you are reviewing a later volume in a fiction series, always mention the series title and explain how the current title relates to previous books in the series. If you reviewed previous volumes, you might summarize or refer to your earlier review, but do not repeat its text verbatim. Interested readers can look it up. If you have NOT reviewed the other titles in the series, you can approach the review in two ways: email me for copies of reviews of previous titles right away, or read the title you have to see how it holds up as a standalone, and THEN email me for reviews of previous titles.
You might receive several series nonfiction titles at once, with instructions to select two or three titles to highlight in an overview of the series, comparing and contrasting them. Other titles in the series should be mentioned so that readers can see the scope of the series, but we don’t have room to review every volume. The chosen sample volumes should be analyzed for how consistent they are with each other and how they follow the purpose of the series. Are they written by different authors or the same author? Do their styles and strengths vary? Is the series continuing, or complete in this set?
If you are reviewing more than one book in a single review, your word count can extend beyond the normal 250-word limit. Two or three books can usually be covered in a little less than double the space.
- How do I work with teen partner reviewers?
If you wish to train a teenager or a small group of teens to work with you on reviews, you write your complete review, and up to three teens may append their critical comments to it. Contact me to register your teen partner(s) officially and to request the training materials for teen reviewers. Please realize that this involved, long-term youth participation project requires more of your time and dedication than writing reviews on your own. You need not share every review book with a teen partner; not all titles will work with your particular partners, and you may not be able to co-produce all your reviews. It is the adult reviewer’s job to make sure the teen reviews are VOYA acceptable, and follow VOYA teen guidelines.
- How do I submit my reviews?
Your reviews should be attached in a Word document, Google doc, or in the body of an email sent to me at email@example.com. The subject line should read: NEW REVIEW. Please do not forget to add your name to the end of the review. Always edit and proofread your review carefully before sending it.
Include all bibliographic citations in your review. If you are not familiar with the VOYA review format for bibliographic data, please check a recent copy of VOYA either in print or online. If you read a VOYA review, you will see how we format bibliographic data at the beginning of each review. You also receive(d) style sheets and review guidelines in your reviewer packet. NOTE: VOYA has a unique style that does not follow any other format.
- What types of changes might the review editor make in my review?
Like every publication, VOYA has its own style, format, and editorial preferences. We always print book titles in bold, for example, and italicize titles of short stories. The more you read VOYA, the more you’ll become used to our style, and we hope you will adopt it in your review manuscripts wherever you can. I will make changes to your review to ensure that it strictly follows both format and style, and I will let you know if it doesn’t.
In terms of editorial preferences, reviewers are given our editorial philosophy and review guidelines to follow. That said, here are the two of the most common problems I encounter in reviews:
Too much plot summary, far too detailed. Busy professionals who read reviews do not need a blow-by-blow account of every event in the book. Look for the main events, the pivotal conflict, the central thrust of the book, and convey that to our readers in the first paragraph of the review.
Lack of attention to critical evaluation, recommended readers, read-alike titles, who should purchase the title for their collection, etc. The second paragraph should be the detailed, longer critical analysis and should contain information specific to VOYA’s readers’ needs. Discuss theme, critical literary evaluation, possible teen uses for the book, possible read-alikes, and who should purchase this book for his/her collection. Keep this basic concern in mind: What do VOYA readers need to know about this book in order to decide if it merits use with youth in their own library, classroom, or other setting?
I may contact you for clarification about your review. I may ask you to rewrite part of a review. If I make significant editorial changes to your review – or if I feel it needs significant editorial changes – I will always contact you first. Please find and read your published VOYA reviews to see how they differ from the review you sent to me; you will learn from the changes made. We expect our reviewers to be regular VOYA readers. Only by becoming familiar with our magazine will you understand our mission and our audience, and your audience, too.
- How do I get my reviewer subscription to VOYA?
Reviewers will receive a free subscription to VOYA after one year of successful reviewing. While I do have a database of time that a reviewer has been with VOYA, I have found that reviewers themselves are much better at remembering the exact date of their one year anniversary. Please email right away if you think your anniversary is imminent or has past and you haven’t heard from me about your free subscription.
To place any other order, call Edward Kurdyla at (301)805-2191 and let him know you are a reviewer who would like to subscribe to VOYA.