As any long-time reader will tell you, book reviews are a great guideline when deciding how to spend your entertainment dollar. At one time or another we’ve all been tempted by a book cover to make that purchase only to find that the story contained within just wasn’t what we were looking for. On the other hand, we may have just discovered a wonderful book that has touched us in so many ways and will stay with us for a long, long time. In either case we want to share our thoughts with others (cautionary or praiseworthy). The easiest way to to this is via a book review.
Authors who launch a new book or even their debut novel often seek reviewers for their work as a way of getting the general reading public interested in their story. A few years ago, I set up some guidelines for myself when it came to reviewing the work of other authors. Let me once again state the my opinions are my own and reflect my thoughts and feelings as a reader and an author. I look for basic good grammar and punctuation so that my reading enjoyment isn’t jolted by having to reread a phrase or paragraph to grasp the author’s meaning. Foremost, though, I look for a compelling story line that isn’t full of cliches; a story line that will have me so engrossed that I lose track of time and place and find I simply must turn the next page. Let me assure you that those kinds of stories do exist and I’ve been lucky enough to find them.
Many times authors will contact a reviewer like myself and offer their work in exchange for an honest review. In essence they are hoping for a positive, maybe a 5-star, review. As an author, I myself have done this. However, there are some new authors who simply do not follow the rules of etiquette for requesting a review. These are the ones who send a bulk email to a group of reviewers with their generic request for review. While it may be somewhat effective, it would be better to personalize each email; this tells the prospective reviewer that you, the author, has actually read several of their reviews and think your book might be something the reviewer would enjoy reading. Note: Reviewers don’t like reading genres they’re not interested in just like any other reader.
Then there is the question of negative reviews. Personally, I don’t like writing them but sometimes they are required. As a reviewer I find it my job to alert the reading public of books that aren’t worth their price or the price of the paper they’re printed on. If the problem is grammar, then I point that out; if the problem is editing, I point that out also. If and when an author takes umbrage with my negative reviews they are free to contact me and explain their feelings. That does not mean I will change my review.
Additionally, I’m adding an excerpt from another blog by Ronelle Antoinette which was recently posted on BookDaily.com:
reviewing isn’t cheap and it usually costs the reviewer. The vast majority do not get paid for their time and energy. At most (and If we’re lucky), the author will provide a complimentary copy of their book. However, as companies like Amazon place their focus on “verified purchases”, this is likely to change. There are some sites out there that pay their reviewers, but those are few and far between and most folks that review don’t belong to them. We often use our own websites and blogs, which may even be an expense for us (hosting, site design, etc.).
Depending on the popularity of our sites, we are inundated with review requests. We have to weed out those that don’t fit our tastes, don’t adhere to our request guidelines, and those that are flat-out spam. This takes time. It then takes hours to read a book from cover-to-cover or to listen to the audio version. Hours that we choose to spend on your book rather than on housework, social events, or any number of things that compete for our attention. And it doesn’t end there! Once we’ve finished your masterpiece, we get down to the review itself. That often entails referencing notes we’ve made, looking up passages we want to quote, and sometimes doing a bit of research. After that review is finally written, we go back over it to ensure it’s well-written, error-free, and constructive. Does every single reviewer adhere to standards of professionalism? Nope. Are there trolls out there? You bet. However, I’m confident when I say that most of us do our utmost to make sure that what we write about your book is constructive.
This is on top of our day jobs, kids, pets, fantasy sports leagues, etc. Don’t get me wrong, discovering new books and authors is a joy and an adventure we’re happy to embark upon.
That is, until we encounter a badly-behaved author. The one that leaves nasty comments or sends hateful emails because they didn’t like what we had to say. The one with the thin skin that never learned how to handle constructive criticism. The one that just can’t let it go. And then there’s the spouses, friends, and family members that come after us in their loved one’s stead. It can get pretty ugly sometimes.
We get it, this is your baby, your masterpiece, your gift to the world and we just said we didn’t like it or pointed out what we perceived as flaws or brought up editing issues. The urge to reactively lash out at us is an understandable one. But resist. Remember, this is a symbiotic relationship that works best when both parties are mature adults. It’ll serve you better in the long run not to develop a reputation as a petulant jerk…
So authors, we love you, we really, really do, and we don’t write critical reviews to be mean, spiteful, or because we thrive on negativity. We’re people too, and we’re human, with human flaws, opinions, and tastes. But when you solicit us for a review, you do so knowing we’re dedicated to giving our honest opinion.
I couldn’t have said it better myself! Thanks Ronelle.