Sunday, July 5, 2015

Random thoughts about book reviews ...

Several months ago, I spotted a Twitter conversation from Mandy (Smexy Books) about book reviews on blog tours. Romanceland has explode with tales of woe about book reviews. Readers are being nagged to write reviews for books they buy. Reviewers are pressured to publish only glowing reviews for books they receive. Bloggers are being choked with review requests. Authors are overwhelmed with promotions. The total effect casts a dark cloud over a genre known for offering hope.

Let’s get down to basics ala Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Reviews are for ___________.

Anyone? Anyone?

Reviews are for readers. 

I believe reviews should be separate from promotions, especially blog tours. Let readers have their private space as they discuss books in reviews. Authors should wait to interact with readers on a blog tour when the blogger invites authors into the reader space.

Yet authors are focused on reaching 50 reviews on Amazon – a golden number that apparently feeds the algorithm. If that is the goal, then authors should focus on how to reach out to 50 readers who are best suited to review their genre. Whether authors are published by NY, small press, or themselves, their initiative to find their tribe will pay off.  From Thomas Edison

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

Authors need to research Romanceland to find where readers of their genre congregate. Then the work begins with review requests. The good – authors can easily access readers through social media. The bad – authors often do not follow guidelines posted by reviewers. The ugly – authors blindly send review copies to bloggers, in my case, as a message to my Facebook account. For the bad and ugly, I simply delete.

Let’s return to the good – many readers, reviewers, and bloggers enjoy being part of Romanceland. It’s a unique community where all parties actively engage in lively discussions about the craft. The key to keeping that community spirit in recognizing boundaries.

Reviews are for readers. Common sense suggests that authors should stay off readers’ forums. Publicly criticizing readers is as effective as a lead balloon.

Accept that readers, reviewers, and bloggers also have lives outside Romaneland.

Good will goes a long way in building partnerships with readers, reviewers, and bloggers.

Then the fun begins with blog tours. But that is an another discussion for another day.

Do you write a review for books you buy, borrow, or win? What are your thoughts on authors asking readers to write reviews? Would you be interested in tips for writing reviews? One randomly selected commenter wins a book choice from my convention stash.  Comments are open through Saturday, July 11, 10 pm in Baltimore.  I'll post the winner on Sunday, July 12.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City


  1. Great topic and post, Kim!
    I try to write reviews for all books that I read, whether I purchase, borrow or win them. However, it is a book that I truly dislike, I won't post a review because I feel bad, like I am tearing the author's work down. I try to find at least one thing that I liked about it. I admit that I don't read reviews too often from other people and mine tend to sound repetitive in my opinion.
    I do get asked sometimes to write them, though I don't have a blog. If it is an author that I have read and have time, I will do a review for them. I do feel pressured at times, but also understand the author's position, especially with places like Amazon where they promote and do pre-orders, but only for certain authors or they have to meet some criteria.
    I had no idea how much work went into making a story and getting it out there until I came to Romanceland. :)
    I do love the stories though! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on what could be considered a controversial topic.
    I hope that you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  2. I seldom write reviews now, I find writing reviews stressful. I don't feel that a star system really reflects how I feel about a book. Also, I have seen too much of the squabbling about Amazon, bloggers and some of the nonsense that happens on the internet so I am not comfortable reviewing anymore.
    As far as reading reviews, I try to avoid them. For the most part they are too long and spoiler-ish.I do have a handful of reviewers that I do trust, and have bought books based on their recommendations.
    I think tips for writing a review would be great.

  3. I routinely write reviews for books I read, and if an author provides a book to me for free, I don't mind if they say that if I enjoy the book they'd love it if I wrote a review. I don't care for it being a condition of accepting the book, if it's something I "have" to do, I'll pass. Sometimes an author will contact me through Goodreads because I expressed my enjoyment of their previous work in a review to offer me their newest book. I think that is an excellent way for an author to reach readers that enjoy their books and who will most likely write a nice review for them.

  4. I've only written a handful of reviews and always feel guilty that I don't do more. I never enter contests if the stipulation is you write a review - I feel obliged to love it because they gave me the book. I will never write a bad review - just can't do it. I have had authors ask me to review after I have won the book and I find that extremely stressful. If I win a book and enjoy it I will probably buy more from that author. I also let others know on blogs and FB if I like a particular book or author. There are only a few people that I totally trust to say what they think of a story because there are so many of them out there that say they love all of them or are nasty and hate everything. And it's all so relative anyway - unless you know someone likes the same things as you. I always say there is something out there for everyone and just because I may like it or dislike it, doesn't mean you will. That said, there are some reviewers that can explain nicely what they do or do not like about a story and without ruining it for you - it's a talent really and a lot of us aren't as good explaining stories lol.

  5. I usually write reviews for books I win, borrow, or buy. Recently I've been getting more and more direct messages from authors on Twitter asking me to read an excerpt of their book and if I like it they will send me a free pdf copy that they would like a review on. The only time I like being asked to read a book and write a review are in the street teams for authors. I don't really like getting random direct messages asking me to read ad review books. I do like it when an author stops by my blog and leaves a comment on the review as long as they don't start bashing.

  6. I do NOT write reviews for books that I win or buy. I will pimp (hahaha) the book on my Facebook page if I really enjoyed it. I have problems putting my thoughts in writing but call me on the phone and I can talk your ear off about a book.

  7. I don't mind getting requests for reviews. I accept very few "pitches" that are emailed to me, mostly because the books do not look like ones I'll enjoy, and life is too short for that.

    I actually love it when authors comment on my reviews or posts, although I've never been attacked or harassed.

    I've done a few blog tours but I stopped because I feel like my voice gets lost. Is there anyone other than the author who wants to read 50 reviews for the same book? Seems unlikely. :-/

    Perhaps I'm missing some empathy genes or something but I make it abundantly clear on my blog that I'm in it for fun, and I don't feel guilty about turning down reviews.

  8. I seldom write reviews for books. Partly because I read a lot and would spend the rest of my free time writing reviews because I wouldn't know how to pick and choose which books to write reviews for.

    Your comment about authors staying away from readers' forums spoke to me. It seems like most places, the readers are also writers and you just wind up in the same circuit with the same people. Sure authors will buy other authors' books, but I know personally there's only so much time and money to spend. I know for me, I just can't buy the books of every author I know or hear about. The trick is finding a way to get our books into the hands of people who are readers but not authors.

  9. GREAT piece! You clearly took a great deal of time and consideration in these thoughts--and authors would be well-served to heed them. Thank you!

  10. Kim this is fabulous! I'll be sharing it!

  11. not interested in writing reviews
    authors can ask for reviews, but shouldn't pay for them, only ask readers to post 5 star reviews, or bully reviewers that give less than 5 stars

  12. I'm not a reviewer. I have had authors ask to leave a review for a book I won, but they make sure that I know it's not required.

  13. Depends, sometimes I write reviews, sometimes not, sometimes I have to say something, sometimes no.
    Thank you for the great post :)

  14. Great post, Kim. I rate all the books I read on my Goodreads account--and I'm not an easy rater--but I don't typically write reviews. Once in a great while, I'll post a review. I agree with you that reviews are for readers. Frankly, because there's such a glut of positive reviews, it dilutes their usefulness to me.

  15. I understand authors' desire and need for reviews, especially good ones. I will plead guilty to not writing enough reviews for books I read. Part of it is there is the perfect time to write the review, right after finishing the book when everything is still fresh in my mind and how I feel about the book clear. Unfortunately, there is seldom time to do a review right then. It is way too easy to just let it slide.
    For an author to be overly insistent over a review would be a big turn-off.. They can't make you like the book. I can only imagine the pressure a reviewer/blogger would get to read and review a book. Unless you already have a history of reading their books or their type of book, there may be little interest in the story.
    I agree with you. Find your target audience and get the book into their hands. Asking nicely for a review when they finish. Don't hound them. Some of us have so many books, it takes quite a while to get to the new ones.

  16. I do try to write a review for each book I read. It's not always possible. I am honest, but not mean.

    I think the key thing is knowing which reviews you read are genuine.

  17. I write reviews as often as I can.

  18. Excellent topic! I do write reviews but I write them for a site but I will post at Amazon upon request.

  19. I have written some on amazon.

  20. I am horrible about keeping up with writing and posting reviews. I try for awhile and then real life catches up and time becomes an issue. I've done a few on Goodreads but I won't on Amazon since my husband and I share an account and it's in his name. ;-) I will rate books on Goodreads, but am not really good about keeping up with that either. I like to sit back and think about a book before I do any rating or reviews as well. (Which is probably part of the reason I end up not reviewing - I get caught up in whatever....)

    I will NOT post a negative review - especially if the reason for the negativity is mostly just that the book, or aspects of the book just aren't for me. I feel there are enough people out there who live to tear down author's work sometimes for no good reason.

  21. I've written a few reviews for books I've gotten thru Goodreads - I try to be honest but often struggle with how to word the review, especially if I can't give it 5 stars. But I do appreciate reading others reviews, especially if it's about a book by an author I haven't read. I do like to read several reviews because not everyone has the same taste. And I really appreciate when the reviewer says why they feel like they do.

  22. Great topic Kim! I've backed off on writing any author or publisher requested reviews. Unfortunately, I'm seeing a majority of gushing 4 and 5 star reviews for books that are ARCs, requested by author or published, gifted by author or publisher - any review from a book (print or digital) which has been provided free for an honest review. If "reviews are for readers"....not all books rate 4 or 5 stars. Many good stories are 3 stars. Are authors so thin-skinned and bloggers afraid of offending with a less-than glowing review? I call BS. This has to stop. It is creating a disservice to readers everywhere.

  23. I write reviews on Goodreads, for myself and to spread the word about awesome books. I tried to write reviews for publishers, authors, street teams, but the pressure was too much for me. And I felt bad if I didn't enjoy the book. So now, if I don't enjoy the book, I don't feel as guilty because I bought the book, and I can decide weather I want to write a review or not.

  24. I don't write reviews, though I sometimes rate books on Goodreads. I don't have a problem with the occasional reminder in an author's newsletter that reviews help them. I'd love to read tips on writing reviews.