I’ve been reviewing books for a few years now. At first, I just reviewed books I chose to read for fun. Then I reviewed books to support other independent authors. After that I started reviewing books with a few book blog tour companies. With all that reviewing going on it wasn’t long before authors (or their representatives) began soliciting me directly to review their books for them. And all of this I did for the love of reading, blogging, and to be supportive of other authors. Hours and hours out of my own writing time where I wasn’t getting paid. Which is why I started Authors4Bloggers.
Unfortunately, some authors don’t react well to reviews which are not as good as they had been expecting. Or they can be demanding or get angry when you don’t have the time to review their book in the time frame they want. Many authors (or their representatives) expect a reviewer to not just review on their blog, but also on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub, and anywhere else that book reviews can be listed. The reactions I received when said authors (or reps) didn’t get their way, has led me to believe that maybe there needs to be some kind of explanation of how authors should behave when requesting, waiting for, and after their book is reviewed. Continue reading to see my list of 11 Author Etiquette Rules for Book Reviews.
1) Be upfront about what your book is. – On more than one occasion I have picked up a book whose blurb on the cover described something campy and fun, only to find out that it was full of torture, rape, and other horrors. Don’t trick your readers. Make sure that if there are controversial subjects (read that as things which could trigger trauma memories in your readers) that you warn them. If a book has a sexual assault graphically described in it, I want to know before I ever pick the book up. Same thing for domestic violence, torture. Saying a book is “not for children” doesn’t cover that. Love Actually is “not for children” and it’s still a fun and campy movie which doesn’t have really anything traumatizing in it. There needs to be a trigger warning or a warning of violence.
- This goes for romance as well. There are a lot of erotic/romance books out there where the woman (sometimes the man but mostly women) is forced by circumstance, tricked, or otherwise coerced into sexual relationships. Whether she enjoys it or not, these are still instances of rape if when it is starting, during, and after she did not want to do it. Same thing for men in books like this. Don’t be a rape apologist author who furthers rape culture by defending the rape in your book. If you don’t want to call it rape, then call it coercive intercourse or something else which makes sure that the people reading know what they are reading before they start reading.
2) Ask once. – Some businesses check their email multiple times a day. Some check once a day. Some only check their email once a week. When you send your review request to an independent reviewer or a book blog company, wait at least a week before sending a follow up request. Do not annoy the people who will be reviewing your book. They will do their best to be objective, but they may not be able to remain that way if the author of the book they are reading is annoying them.
3) High resolution images are important. – When providing images of your book (or other advertising images) to reviewers and book blog tour companies, provide the highest quality cover image you can. Many book tour companies create Bookstagram images and Pinterest images with the book cover to help spread a book review over as many platforms as possible. If the images of your ebook and tour banners don’t look good once they are online, it might be because the image you provided didn’t have a high enough quality.
4) Be patient. – You’d think this would be covered on the “Ask once” section, but once a reviewer or book blog company has accepted your book for review or tour and has provided you with scheduled dates, don’t harass them with trying to get the review published sooner. You have your time frame. If the review isn’t posted to a blog on the day you were informed it would be, don’t panic. Just calmly email the company/reviewer and ask when it will be up. Most reviewers who are part of a book blog company don’t get paid. That’s right, all that money you spent to get your book advertised and reviewed, NONE of it went to the blog you are looking at. So, BE patient. Your book’s review will be posted when the blogger needs it posted for THEIR blog. Don’t like it? Should have paid them.
5) Don’t bully. – Don’t harass, threaten, insult, or try to humiliate a blogger or fellow author who gives you a bad review you don’t agree with. We read your book; we wrote a review with our honest opinion. That is what you asked for. If you wanted someone to lie for you, you should have paid one of those services which do that. I recently posted a review of an okay book. It was a pretty standard and formulaic fantasy. Classic, Nobody-with-magic-powers raising to be king by trial as he is favored by the country’s Goddess. Basic fairytale fare. However, there was a lot of child beating domestic violence, rapes, torture and murder all described with some graphic detail. Now for someone who isn’t affected by that, it wouldn’t have dampened their enjoyment of the story. But if I read a book which didn’t warn me before hand that there are triggers in it (specifically rape, torture, suicide, and domestic violence), that lack of adequate warning is going to affect my review and be included in it. Why? Because I’m giving an honest and professional review.
- A victim of domestic violence who is bothered by reading about it, is going to start in on the first chapter of that book and put it back down. They will want their money back, and they will be offended that there wasn’t a warning. Worse yet, if they chose to read that book based on my evaluation, they will not only leave negative reviews of the book, they will have a negative opinion of my blog and that will affect every author whose books I review from that point on. The author of this book emailed me after the review was posted to remind me that she states the book is not for children. This is insulting. It implies that;
- a) I am a child for not liking her book.
- b) I don’t know what is child appropriate.
- c) All adults should be okay with reading about rape, torture, domestic violence, and suicide.
6) Bad or low star reviews on blogs can help authors. – Most book bloggers and book blog tours will not post a review if it is less than 3 or 4 stars. For me, it’s really hard to find a book that is legitimately less than 3 stars without pulling emotions into it. There have been books I’ve read where I didn’t agree with some of the content (or there were terrible mistakes in spelling and grammar) but the story was so compelling that I had to ignore my personal feelings and go with my professional evaluation. Sometimes, no matter how polished the book was, the story was just so stupid, convoluted, horrible, or only understandable with a technical manual, that I couldn’t give more than 2 stars. Those reviews are going to keep people from reading that book, who don’t want to read about the things I mentioned in my review. That means those readers are not going to be leaving bad reviews. Yeah, they won’t be buying the book either, but a couple of extra sales are not worth the negative reviews which would otherwise result.
7) Thank your reviewer. – Most of the authors I’ve reviewed for have never thanked me. No, I didn’t and don’t expect them to. They paid for their book blog tour, and they got their product. It was a financial transaction for them. A month from now I’m not going to remember them or their book because I’ll have read six new books since then and probably posted as many reviews. Especially the authors I reviewed for other book blog companies. They don’t pay me. I don’t really care who they are just that my reviews are accurate. But the authors who thank me? They I remember for longer. Maybe not well enough to recognize them on the street, but I fondly remember the thank you email I was sent, or the physical copy of a book that was snail mailed to me. And I treasure those tokens. I look forward to reviewing their next book because they were respectful, and whatever the rating I gave the book (sometimes all I did was post a highlight or excerpt post) the author understood and appreciated the time, effort, and finances which go into promoting their work at the expense of mine. I look forward to working for/with those authors in the future and even if I was not very interested in their first book will gladly read their next.
8) Make sure the reviewer will review your genre. – Don’t ask a fantasy only reviewer to review a technical manual. Don’t expect them to enjoy your hardcore erotica just because there are fantasy elements. Follow their submission criteria to the letter.
9) Do seek out cross topic reviews. – This may sound counter intuitive (especially after what I stated in number 8 but…cross topic reviews can help you find more readers. I don’t mean ask a fantasy book reviewer to review your romance novel. What I mean is, if you have a cook book available for purchase, you might consider connecting with a few recipe/food bloggers or YouTubers and asking if they’d be willing to review your book and a couple of your recipes on their blog or channel. Finding people within the field you write about to blog/vlog about your book can reach a much wider audience than just a book blog tour. Remember, if they say “no”, thank them and move on to the next. Do not be annoying.
10) Don’t stalk a reviewer. – This may seem like a no-brainer but… I’ve read that it’s been done before by authors who did not like a review left by a reviewer. And it is serious enough that I didn’t include it in the “Don’t Bully” section. Stalking is illegal. It’s terrifying and horrifying for the victim. No book is worth stalking someone for. You can also be arrested if you do it. Don’t stalk electronically, don’t stalk physically, don’t even mentally fantasize about stalking a reviewer for any reason. You don’t need to meet us in person. You don’t need to see where we live. You don’t need to verify if their online profile is correct, true, or accurate. Don’t hunt them down in person to see what they look like. Don’t retaliate by leaving a bad review of their book if it is another author who posted the bad review. You don’t need to know anything about your reviewers except for the review. I know this will probably get me some flack for putting it out there. Just don’t.
11) Leave a reciprocal review. – Okay. I know for really popular authors this may be impossible. But it is something to consider. Many book bloggers are also authors and one of the best ways to thank us for reviewing your book (especially if you didn’t pay us to do it or ask us to do it) is to leave a review of one of our books. Some independent authors can’t afford to pay for professional reviews, social media campaigns, and book blog tours. That doesn’t make their books any less good or worthy of review and discovery. Take a positive action to show you care about your fellow authors and reciprocate reviews when you have the time to read your reviewer’s books.
This is just some basic etiquette for new authors who don’t know better, and a few who’ve been around for a while and should know better. I’ve covered a few things that authors should keep in mind when requesting reviews, waiting for, and after book blog reviews are posted. Many of this rules of etiquette also apply to restaurant and other reviews. Now I want to go over the difference between a personal opinion review and a professional opinion review. Check back next week for more about that.
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