Book Reviews

Can And Should You Ask For Reviews?

Lately it came up in a writer’s discussion group I belong to on Facebook about whether or not it was considered acceptable to ask friends and family for reviews. One author, who was new to the group, had written a novelette and published it on Amazon, but he hadn’t received any reviews for it yet. He was considering asking for reviews from people he knew, but he was afraid it would come off as tacky or as rude to ask for a review.
The consensus of the group seemed to be that asking for reviews wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, several of us had already done so and had received reviews that way. What mattered, we believed, was how you went about asking for a review. Asking in a nice manner, such as saying, “If it’s not too much trouble, after you’ve finished reading my book would you write a review for it?” is perfectly acceptable and is much more likely to garner a positive response for both you and possibly your book than if you said something like “Give me a review or I won’t ever do anything nice for you!” Remember, people are taking time out of their hectic schedules to read your book, which they are under no obligation to read even if they know you. In a way, they are doing you a favor, and the review is like an extension of that.

However, if you’re still uncomfortable with asking people for reviews, try reviewing the works of authors you are friendly with. If you read their work and you write a review of it, positive or negative, they may want to reciprocate by reading your work and then writing a review of their own. I know a few authors who have received reviews or the promises of reviews that way.

And if you are still uncomfortable, think about it this way: most publishing houses actually pay magazines and newspapers to have their critics read their books and write a review of them. Compared to having to gather up the fees to pay a critic to read and review your work in even a small circulation magazine, asking for a review from some friends or family isn’t too difficult, is it?

Categories: Book Promotion, Book Reviews, The Reader, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Getting Reviews

I’m not an expert on how to get reviews, but I did track down two useful blog posts that I think are worth looking into:

Ten Crucial Tips To Help You Get Your Book Reviewed  by Shelli Johnson

and

Seeking Amazon Book Reviews?  Don’t Ask Your Friends (5 Suggestions of What *to* Do) by Chila Woychik

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Word of Mouth Will Always Be the Best Marketing Tool Out There

Now that I shared the links, I’m going to offer my opinion about reviews.  I don’t believe reviews are as important as we’ve been led to believe.  I think authors stress out way too much about getting them.  You want to know the single most important marketing technique you can use to gain readers?  Word of mouth by people who don’t know you.  But the problem is, that is something you can’t control.  That’s why it’s not a popular thing to talk about.  We talk about “luck”, but you know what luck is?  It’s people talking about your book and recommending them to friends.  It’s word of mouth.  That is the magic ingredient.  You can’t buy it.  You can’t spam for it.  You can write the best book possible and polish it up, but ultimately, it’s out of your control.

A Lot of Readers Don’t Review Books (And I Don’t Blame Them)

There are a lot of people who don’t review books, nor do they care to.  And who can blame them?  Reviews are questioned.  Sometimes they’re removed.  If it’s a positive review, it “must have come from a friend or the author himself”.  If it’s negative, it “must be a jealous author or there’s someone out there with a personal vendetta against you”.  If you review a book, you’re likely to get a slew of commenters arguing with you.  Since when should reviewers have to be questioned for leaving their opinion on a book?  There’s no reason why a reviewer should be attacked, but I see this behavior happening at an alarming rate.  So I don’t blame anyone who decides to not review a book.

Embrace a Variety of Reviews

And what kind of reviews do you want to get?  Would you be happy if you get a few 1-star reviews “warning” other people not to waste time on your book?  I think what authors mean when they say they want reviews, what they’re really saying is they want praise.  They want reviewers to build them up in hopes of other customers being so impressed that they will buy the book.  But do a slew of glowing reviews sell books?  No, they don’t.  They are not the magic ticket.  I’ve seen a lot of books with all glowing reviews or mostly glowing reviews that don’t sell well.  I’ve seen books that have a 3-star average that sell much better.  Sometimes when people don’t like your books, other people are attracted to it.  Yeah, it stings when you get reviews saying your book is bad and why.  But potential readers who aren’t in your target audience need to know what someone else doesn’t like about your book.  Why waste someone’s time if they aren’t going to be interested in the kind of book you write?  There is no one book that fits every reader.  The best reviews are the ones that state specifically why the person did or did not like your book.  There’s no sense in glowing praise or attack.  Just objectively stating the good and bad is best.  So embrace the good, indifferent, and bad reviews.  A balance will serve you better than 100% praise.

Let Reviews Come In At Their Own Time

I do see value in having book reviewers reviewing your books.  They have an established presence and are known for reviewing a variety of books.  So I think contacting them (and going by their guidelines) is a good idea.  But I wouldn’t stress trying to have X number of reviews within a month of publishing your book.  Let reviews build up naturally over time.  I think having them trickle in here and there will benefit you in the long run.  I know some people are in a hurry to sell books so they want as many reviews as possible in a short amount of time, but there’s value in being patient.  Building a business takes time.  While there are a couple of authors who become big successes within a year, realistically, the odds are stacked against you.  Slow and steady still pays off.

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Anyone else have tips to offer on getting reviews or ways to think of reviews?

Categories: Book Reviews

Battling over Book Reviews, Should it happen?

I want to start out by thanking those who have questions for using the SPAL question form to ask those questions. You guys have some really good questions and I have fun looking up the answers for the questions I don’t know and sharing the information I do know and don’t think to share because I take it for granted. It also makes it so much easier for us to tailor our posts to your guys needs.

While on vacation I received a question in my inbox and was going to write this big long post about it. Then I looked at the 200+ emails sitting in my inbox that I have left to go through and answer, plus a few book cover designs that I need to do and finish for clients, some websites I need to update and complete the construction of, a story to finish, a 60 Day Writing Challenge that starts Monday, a sick kid to cuddle with, and a house that is starting to looking like a poster child for Hoaders and realized that I really don’t have the time.

So rather than try to write the post, I’m going to cheat and post the question:

I’ve seen authors and reviewers fighting over book reviews. Is there a time when the author should reply to a review?

Joleene asked people to weigh in on the topic and some of you did.

My answer to the question is: No.

Battling over a book review is stupid and childish. I’d put my kids on time out for such behavior. Readers will put you on the do not read list. Even some of the loyal ones. Replying to book reviews is equally suicidal.

I don’t care if the review is good. Don’t thank them. Most reviewers don’t appreciate it and most readers find a lurking writer creepy.

I don’t care if the review is bad. Write a scathing letter you never plan to send. Rant to your best friend about the unfairness of it all. Cry over a few shots of Whiskey or a half-gallon of ice cream. Just don’t respond to them. If you want to wait until after you calm down to complain on your blog about your greatness and how mean the reviewer was, just remember they have Google Alerts and followers too.

They only review you should ever respond to is the one you ask for. Good or bad, thank the reviewer for taking the time to review it for you.

I can hear the “But Stephannie” right now. No, buts.

Writing is a Business, unless you are doing it for a hobby. If writing is your hobby and you have no intentions of making it a business, by all means reply to the reviews. Just don’t expect people to be happy about it. People will attack you for it. If this is your business, then playing by the rules is a must. This doesn’t mean allowing people to walk over you, but pick your battles and reviews are not a battle you can win.

  1. Reviews are people’s opinions and reading is tastes are subjective. What one person loves, another may not. I also don’t see the point of picking a fight with someone over their opinion. It’s pointless and it’s not going to change anyone’s mind. Trying makes you look like a crazed, maniac author that will find themselves talked about on Facebook and Twitter while they may watch their books sail off the shelves for a time, others are disgusted by the display and potential readers are lost.
  2. Good reviews can sometimes look like a bad review. An objective reviewer will balance the good and the bad. They will show the author their weaknesses and their strengths. They aren’t looking to be a smart ass or a megalomaniac. They are writing the review for the reader. As writers, all we see is the negative and want to scream “You didn’t understand my vision!”
  3. People are mean and reviews can sometimes be ugly. As a reader, these types of reviews from set my teeth on edge. I discount them for the heartless, cruelty of a reviewer with a personal vendetta against the writer. They are no better than the school bully that uses the geek kid as a punching bag only to have the teacher ignore it because she didn’t see it happen. They are the ones that take great lengths to publicly flog the author, rake their flaws through the coals, have little to nothing nice to say, and attack the author personally.

My best advice is to never look at your reviews. Don’t read them and don’t let people tell you about them. You’ll be happier for it. Why? Because there is too many negative critics who aren’t helpful in their reviews. There are too many hookey reviewers that make me wonder what they got for writing the review. There are too many gushy reviewers that go on and on about the greatness of the author to the point that I start to think “stalker.” And then there is the reviewer that write a review that attacks the writing and writer in a way that screams “personal vendetta.” You don’t want to get mixed up in that scene. It will kill your career.

Now that I wrote a post about 700 words longer than I planned, what do you think? Should the battle of book reviewer and author be happening? What do you think when you hear about such things? Should writer’s reply to reviews?

Categories: Book Reviews, The Reader, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , ,

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