Can Book Reviewers and Authors Get Along?
The following posts led to my writing this one.
- Ritesh Kala starts it off with I am a blogger, and I am pissed! #1
- Natalie Star responds with Why Natalie Star is PISSED
- Ritesh Kala follows with I am a blogger, and I am pissed! #2
- Tara Chevrestt responds with I’m an Author and I’m Pissed
- Natalie Star responds again with A great debate – reviewers authors
- Ritesh Kala’s finale I am a blogger, and I am Pissed #3
I wondered after reading all the posts if book reviewers and authors could get along. Both sides have been so angry lately. The above posts were tame compared to some of the things going on recently. Authors claiming they are being bullied by reviewers leaving 1-3 star reviews. Reviewers feeling abused by authors and wondering if they want to continue reviewing books or limiting who they accept books from.
- Can the situation be changed? I suspect it is wishful thinking on my part that it can be. If both sides realized that they are professionals and behaved as professionals the situation would change. It would have to. Professionals don’t get in too many online fights as it shows them in a bad light and is bad for business.
- Should it be changed? Obviously I think it should. It would be good for everyone if the focus was back on books and not drama.
- Do readers care how either side behaves? Book sales show that readers care how authors behave. It is less clear if readers care how reviewers behave. I have no data one way or another on whether book review sites have less hits a few weeks/month after they have behaved badly.
The complaints I heard about the series of posts I’m responding to was that there was so much anger it was hard to hear the message. My goal is to take each point that was made and rewrite it without anger as I don’t yet have a book out and while I review books so far I’ve had no problems from anyone I’ve reviewed a book for and we don’t yet have submission guidelines so most books I’m reviewing are ones I’m reading on my own or from “friends” on Facebook groups or Twitter.
Reviewers (Recasting of Ritesh’s points)
1. Read the review policy It is important to read the review policy on book review blog sites and to make sure your book falls into the category of books they review. If your book is not a fit you should move on to another book review site and not waste your and their time.
2. Draft personal review requests People like to feel respected. If their name is mentioned on the site it is best to start your query with “hey x and not hey you”. Do not send out batch review emails as this decreases your chance of any of the reviewers choosing to review your book. Think about how you feel about spam email. This is how you make reviewers feel when you send out batch emails instead of taking the time to personalize and send an email to each one of them.
3. Don’t attach your books with the review request Sending your book with your request is seen as arrogant on the part of reviewers. You may not mean it that way and may just be trying to be helpful but the perception is that you assume they will be accepting your book for review.
4. Don’t assume your book is the best thing since sliced cheese It is good to be excited about your book. But you should never assume you are the next great best selling author. That is again seen as arrogant. Its okay to say “I think you might enjoy my book” but to say “My book is the best book since JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings” is just wrong and going to turn most reviewers off. Remember this is a sales pitch be reasonable. You want to interest them in your book. Talk a little bit about why the book is the kind of book they like, read some of their reviews of similar books and share a scene or two (if guidelines permit) that will whet their appetite for more.
5. Not giving out review copies Never, ever expect your reviewer to pay for a copy of your book. They are doing you a favor by reading and reviewing your book. Please respect their time and ask what format they would like the book in and if possible provide it to them. If you cannot provide the book in their preferred format let them know what formats you can provide it in and ask which of them they would prefer and how they would like to receive it.
6. Put out a good book If you know your book is full of editing problems and the cover is not well done I do not advise asking book reviewers to do a review as they will give it a bad review. If you want a good review of your book you need to put out a professional book, one that has been edited and has a professional cover. If you are unable to do that then don’t ask for reviews as you may be better off without them. When you can afford those things redo the book and then ask for reviews.
7. Help the blogs in return It is important that you promote your review/interview/author spotlight. If you don’t know how to do this ask the blogger for advice. Or check our my post on FB Pitches and TwitPitches. Make sure you comment and respond to comments – not necessarily on reviews of a book as we know you should NOT comment on reviews (more about that later). But on Interviews and Author Spotlights you need to go and check the post regularly for comments or even better thank the host for having you and subscribe to comments. That way you can respond to comments in a timely manner.
8. “Demanding” reviews When a book reviewer does agree to review your book that does not mean they will get to it tomorrow or next week. You may want to ask for a time frame when they first agree but keep in mind life happens. They may have a large back list of books to get to before yours. Many have full-time jobs and families. They do book reviews as a hobby. Constantly checking in with them may cause your books to end up off their list. Its like when you volunteer to do something and then someone in the family gets sick but someone on the volunteer committee keeps calling. Does that make you want to help out more or less?
9. Book pricing This one I’m not sure how to address as I disagree a bit with Ritesh on. I don’t think self-published authors should price their very 1st novel at 9.99 but I also don’t think they have to price it at 2.99. And if someone is a new author with a publishing firm they have zero say what the book is priced at so… Think about your pricing if you are able to set it, think very seriously about it if you have any say in it.
10. Going to war It looks bad all around to be fighting with each other. Authors please don’t respond to bad reviews and don’t attack bloggers/reviewers it will only harm you. You will have a harder time finding bloggers/reviewers for your books. Most readers will watch you as you escalate in the fight and even if they supported you in the beginning they will see your behavior and decide not to buy your books. Just walk away for everyone’s sake.
11. Twitter Twitter is a tool for networking for building relationships with people not bots. If all people see you do is drop links to your book and book reviews they will feel spammed and either unfollow you or simply ignore you.
12. No means No If blogger/book reviewer says no don’t keep asking them to review book. Why would you want someone to read your book who has already told you they are not interested? Do you think you’ll get a good review from them in the end?
13. Behaving on blog tours It is important on blog tours to get your stuff to hosts in a timely manner, respond to emails/requests, and reread point #7.
14. Commenting on blogs If you are interviewed or a blogger does an author spotlight it is important you respond to comments on the blog. For more information reread point #7
15. Replying to ‘bad’ reviews Never ever ever do this… did I mention NEVER. I’m not sure there is a gentler way to say this. Responding to bad reviews usually makes you look worse. Explaining to someone who read your book how they misunderstood you … well I’ll leave you to think about how you feel about someone telling you why you are wrong about what you think about a book/movie/song/politics/religion. The conversation rarely stops at the one comment you make. The longer the discussion goes on the more likely you are to look like a bully or a jerk. After getting a bad review go directly to Amazon, do not stop at Go, do not collect $200, look up your favorite authors, look at how many 1 & 2 star reviews they have and the negative things people say about them. If possible go to living authors that you like. Notice they are not responding to the negative reviews. Pick any of the top 50 best selling books at the moment you will find they have plenty of negative reviews. Smile to yourself. Congratulate yourself for being in such good company. You’ve made it as an author. Go do something to pamper yourself, ice cream, a beer, go to the gym, the spa, celebrate with a friend. Yes you heard me celebrate instead of responding. You are in the company with great authors the best of the best what’s not to celebrate?
Authors (Recasting of Natalie & Tara’s points)
1. Have an easy to find and read review policy Natlie simply asks book review blogs have an easy to find and follow review policy. It is difficult to follow the review policy if you can’t find it. Some review policies are hidden among irrelevant information. Information about your favorite books and other information about yourself belongs in your “about me” page rather than on your review policy page/section.
Next week Natalie and Ritesh will help me create a policy for Tasha Turner Coaching. We are going to do the creation of our policy as a blog post. It will be interesting to see how a reviewer versus an author will recommend I write my policy based on my list of what we accept.
2. Have your name easy to find so authors can personalize their query letters Natalie again asks book review bloggers to have their name easy to find on the review policy. If your name is not all over your blog but some other name is don’t be surprised when the query letter is addressed to the name most used on your blog. This is why it is so important that your name be included with your review policy. So authors can address their query to you and not your character or pet.
3. Don’t attack books makes sense I don’t think this needs a comment from me
4. How should we describe our book as obviously we think it is good? Could some book reviewers give Natalie some ideas of how to describe books that is not arrogant? Is it ok to say “I think you might like my book because… “? or should they simply say “my book matches your review criteria”?
5. Agrees that books should be given to reviewer I think her main point needs no clarification
6. Put out a good book I like that Natalie suggests if you don’t have money for an editor find beta readers. I would also recommend teaming up with another author (edit each other’s work) or finding a critique group. And then have beta reader(s) read over your work before releasing it to the public.
7. Help the blogs in return Natalie and I agree that it is important to promote any blog you are guest/etc. on. Natalie makes a good point that sometimes the author being “in the house” can hinder dialogue. My response to that is if in doubt check with the blogger rather than just not responding to comments so the blogger knows that you are not just blowing them off.
8. Demanding reviews Natalie agrees with Ritesh here so nothing really for me to say other than remind you to treat reviewers well as they are doing you a favor during their free time.
9. Book pricing Natalie reminds Ritesh that if the book is put out by a publisher the author has little to no say in the price. She also points out that it cost money to get a book published and that people want to get paid for the work they do as well as recoup any expenses they had in publishing the book.
10. Going to war Natalie agrees that authors should walk away. Tasha would like to remind reviewers that giving a bad review does not mean you have to be snarky or attack the author personally. Everyone needs to behave like professionals or the readers will stop trusting reviewers also. Readers do not find our wars entertaining.
6. Readers want a good book but they want it free. I’m not sure how to gentler this one. There is a lot of debate right now over pricing. Are readers willing to to pay for books or do they just want them free? How much are they willing to pay for all the work and money authors put into their books? Good questions.
7. Readers want us to promote their blogs or at least our post on their blog I think the problem here comes down to the need for people to promote and comment any time they are on a blog regardless of whose blog it is or why (except reviews where authors should promote but stay away unless asked by reviewer to comment). We have to work together and promote each other.
8. Yes bloggers have a backlist If they are going to accept and review books be honest with the authors, don’t tell them their book is next if you are going to read something else or let them know if the order has changed. If you have decided not to post a negative review let the author know that. Communication goes a long way.
9. Book pricing As has been stated above authors may not have any say over pricing of a book. If they have a publisher even a small publisher the publisher has the ultimate say. Some small publishers can have as little partnership with authors as the Big 6.
10. Wars It takes both parties to have a war. Both sides need to try to avoid the behavior that leads to online wars between authors and reviewers.
My closing thoughts
So what do you think? Can we get along? Can we change the way we all behave? Can we change the world?
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