I’ve been doing book reviews since about 2013, and I love it. I came into contact with some very wonderful people, and the stories and topics I’ve interacted with have truly enriched my life. As a writer myself, it has also meant a great deal that a few authors have shared advice and information with me. And, of course, there are the wonderful tales. I’ve said more than once that I believe our very DNA is coded to us wanting to be told stories, and humans throughout history have indeed sought out and provided.
To be quite honest, I think books and the wonderful stories people tell are a big part of what makes life worth living.
I know, that’s a pretty large statement, especially given where I’m about to go with this entry, but I will stick to it because it’s the great side of the bookish world that I want to focus on.
However, I do need to momentarily return to and say a few words about one element of this world, and that is book reviews and the manner in which some authors approach them. I cannot stress enough that, in my experience, the vast majority of authors are extremely professional and personable—a pleasure to work with. Unfortunately, there are some who give authors, especially indie authors, a bad name with their behavior. In a few cases, it truly may be inexperience that leads to this, but others are just, well…less than considerate.
I recently updated my book review policies as a way to keep writing reviews without burning out, and also to make clear where I stand, and that is to make the experience as positive as I possibly can for reviewer (yours truly) and author. That way we all are willingly engaging and hopefully avoid any frustration that might drive us away from doing what we love.
For my part I have:
- provided my preferred genres and which formats I accept
- specified how to contact me re: book reviews, giveaways, guest posts, etc.
- asked that authors provide their email
- stated where to send the book and that I will let you know via email when it arrives
- added a time period in which I will do my level best to have the book read or read enough of to decide that I won’t be finishing or reviewing it
- promised that any review penned will be honest and respectful
- pledged to promote the review so as to get the maximum exposure to the work as possible
A good experience takes two, however, so a few DOs and DON’Ts for authors looking for reviews:
- DO look at a blogger’s site for their review policies and decide if they are a good fit. For example, if you have written sci-fi and they don’t list this genre, then move along. The only exception I can see is if you know them personally and have worked with them or have some other close enough relationship that it would be comfortable for you both—key word here: both—if they wanted to decline your pitch. If you don’t know if they would be weirded out having to tell you no, then don’t ask. I will add that sci-fi is, in fact, a genre not on my own iHeart list. But an author I’d worked with on an indirectly related, long-term endeavor contacted me and really nicely asked if I’d have a go. I did and loved it so much I’m currently on the third in the series! So it can happen, but be aware, as they say, of your audience.
- DO reach out through the proper channels. Some bloggers do not want to be contacted in DMs, for example, at least not for book reviews and related.
- DO take it in stride if they don’t respond, or respond at a later date. Even book bloggers with a smaller load have lives apart from the computer, and in most cases you don’t know how much they may have going on.
- DO show appreciation for the time reviewers have taken from their (very likely) busy schedules to write a review for you for free—consider tossing out a retweet here and there, or saying so in a post if you liked their review. This isn’t a required thing as far as I know, but it’s a very nice way to show appreciation for someone who promoted something you put so much of yourself into. If you are appreciative, they are as well!
- DON’T blow off book bloggers’ review policies. If something is unclear, ask. They may be very glad you did, because if you were uncertain, so too might others be. This way they can tweak the unclear wording (etc.) for greater clarity.
- DON’T contact reviewers via social media messaging, especially if they have laid out some other way authors should contact them re: book reviews.
- DON’T continually ask reviewers if they have read your book yet, if they liked your book, will they be reviewing it, are they finished writing the review yet, why isn’t your book reviewed yet, on and on, or make comments—even ones you feel are light and cheery—related to the above. And don’t use social media posts (especially unrelated) to get your comments in. All of this is pestering, uncool and unprofessional—and might win you no review. If they hadn’t given a time as to when you could expect to know one way or the other, and it’s been, say, six months, then perhaps you could politely ask via their preferred contact method. If you have engaged in the annoying behavior referenced above, they may just see your latest contact as another piece of harassment—even if it was otherwise reasonable for you to contact them. If you hadn’t been badgering, then they are likely to be very apologetic re: their oversight.
- DON’T argue with or badmouth book reviewers. Ever. And by badmouth I don’t mean just saying something negative to their face (or online, directly to them). It means don’t talk smack about them to others or make a post saying how you think their criticism resulted from them not being aware of blah blah blah or whatever complaint you have about their review. You don’t know what they know or don’t know, and they may actually be right. If they are, there is a great opportunity for you to make your book better or more polished.
- DON’T respond to reviews, even ones that sing praises of your book, but especially to those with negative comments. First of all, as someone I know likes to say (and I think she’s right), “Book reviews are none of the author’s business; they’re for readers.” They are the reviewers’ opinion and they have a right to it. Second, no author should lightly embark upon the path in which they may find themselves responsible for creating a stormy situation, especially in this ugly age of cancel and dox. I’ve heard and read of some who say it’s fine to like the review, though, even retweet or share, and this seems sensible. Actually, it’s quite nice.
Please also see my review policies entry, accessible here.
Having said all this, I cannot stress enough that this in no way represents the majority of authors, which makes it all the more regrettable that bloggers ever reach the point where they have to say these sort of things. I personally have so many great memories or associations from authors I’ve worked with, and I still follow the work of some today. A couple have inspired my own continuing interests and even what I want to write about.
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