If you are a writer, you have likely been asked this question. Perhaps more than once.
Before you answer, recognize the question is loaded like a gun and it could go off and hurt you. These requests from some authors contain two unjustified assumptions: one, you plan to read it, and two, you will write something nice about it. Caveat emptor – Buyer beware.
More than one aspiring author I know has made the mistake of saying yes prematurely. They wanted to be helpful and hoped at some future date the favor would be reciprocated. Danger!
What happens when you read the work and it’s filled with typos, factual inaccuracies, unbelievable characters, or an implausible plotline? Would you want a review of your book from someone who lacks talent and writing craft?
Never say yes to this question. Here’s why. In agreeing to write a review, you commit to a product endorsement before you’ve read the book. If you are inclined to read and evaluate a book on its merits, commit to reading ONLY. And ask for a (free) review copy. After you’ve finished reading, then decide whether or not you want to write a review. If you can’t say anything nice about it, don’t write a review. Instead let the author know in a personal email why you can’t. But don’t post a scathing review filled with negative comments. It reflects poorly on you more than the book you bash.
A book review requires a critical assessment of the book’s strengths and weaknesses. Critical here means analytical, not negativism. Negative reviews hurt you more than they do the author. Primum non nocere – Do no harm. It’s your reputation on the line as much as the author’s. You leave your electronic footprint and you don’t want a trace of your muddy tracks for a publisher or agent to find. Worse than a negative review can be an unwarranted positive one. If others read your glowing review of a mediocre or amateurish work, your judgment is called into question.
Writing book reviews is a great service to authors whose work you admire and respect. Don’t wait to be asked. Offer to do so.
Don’t fall for the quid pro quo. “I’ll review your book if you review mine” is rarely an equal exchange. It’s soft blackmail. “I won’t review your book unless you review mine.”
Let’s be clear on what is a “review.” Most legitimate book review venues do not allow reviewers to write about a book written by someone they know. Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Shelf Awareness, Library Journal, The Horn Book, NPR, NYT, Atlantic, Midwest Book Review, and others have editorial independence. At your public library you can access the Book Review Index which provides a comprehensive source for book reviews in nearly 500 periodical and newspapers. These venues do not publish customer satisfaction reports, or what Amazon and GoodReads call “reviews.”
Even Amazon has changed its “review” policy so anyone who has a personal relationship with the author will be disqualified from posting their review. To write a review on Amazon you must be logged into your Amazon account and remember Amazon makes greater profits on data-mining than on selling books so they DO know who you lives in your household and who your friends are and they do block them from posting promotional “reviews.”
The next time an author asks if you will review their new book before you’ve read it, think twice.
4 thoughts on ““Will you write a review of my new book?””
Do you have an article already written about how to write a review? And is being connected with an author (who wants a review) on Facebook and Twitter considered having a personal relationship? Cheers, Jill.
Hi Robin. Thanks for stopping by here again. To answer your second question first: If you have a connection with someone on Facebook and Twitter, then there is a strong likelihood Amazon will recognize you have a personal relationship. To answer your first question, you might find these two previous blogs useful as you consider writing book reviews. “Writing a Book Review and Maintaining Your Dignity in the Digital Era,” and “Who Will Review Your Book.”
Thanks for the food for thought Jill.
Questions: If social network contacts are verboten for Amazon reviews, where do you go? Are professional organization endorsements a no-no? What is the risk of venturing into unknown sources for endorsements?
Good question, Kim. A good place to solicit reviews from your readers is on your website. Those who opt-in to a subscription to your blog or newsletter are likely to be those who will write reviews for you. LinkedIn is another place to ask those who have read your book to post a review on GoodReads or Amazon. Professional organizations are great for networking among those who may be interested in writing reviews. It is easier to get a review if you unload your request into separate questions. “Have you read my book?” If so, then ask if the person would be willing to post a review. And it is okay to communicate how important it is to you they do so. If they haven’t read your book, then ask if they would be interested in reading it and if they like it to post a review. Of course the risk of asking customers for reviews instead of your advance sales and marketing team for promotional statements is you might receive an honest assessment. If you’ve ever read the Amazon reviews of books you know what I’m talking about. They have become so meaningless that Amazon had to clean up its act with its review policies or risk their customers’ dissatisfaction with this feature of their services. The best place to get reviews isn’t on Amazon at all. Consult the Book Review Index. When Kirkus or Story Circle Review publishes a review of your book you can have your publisher add it to your Product Description Page. These carry far more weight. The number of Amazon reviews on your book’s product page is used by Amazon in its algorithm for sales rankings. “Although many authors are obsessed with it and like to send out mass e-mails to friends and family when the number drops, unfortunately, all your ranking means is that people are looking at your page. While it might be argued that sales will inevitably rise due to more page views, the direct connection between ranking and actual sales is zero,” wrote Brooke Warner in “The Top 10 Things All Authors Should Know About Amazon,” recently published in the Huffington Post.