We appreciate when reviewers and librarians chime in during #RWchat to share their insights, so we’re thrilled to share this post from Maria Rose on how to build a good relationship with book reviewers. Also make sure to check out Frannie’s post on Making the Library Your *Fan(girl).
Hello everyone! My thanks to Alexis Daria for inviting me to write a guest post for RWChat on the topic of book reviews. Hopefully it will give you some insight into the reviewer perspective of what should be a positive and mutually beneficial reviewer/author relationship.
A little bit about me: I’m a long time reader of romance and in 2014 I started writing reviews for Goodreads (a book review site owned by Amazon) and book sale sites. I now write for 3 main review sites as well as guest review for others. There may be other reviewers with different perspectives than mine, but these are some of the issues I’ve seen come up with authors and fellow reviewers that I think are worth discussing. Note that my thoughts relate to non-professional book review sites/blogs, not RT, Library Journal, Kirkus etc.
Whether you are a new or established author, self-published or traditionally published, everyone can benefit from having their book reviewed. As part of a marketing plan, reviews can help bring visibility to your story, your name and your brand. Here are some tips to make your book stand out in the crowd.
DO submit your book to the right blogs for review.
There are many, many reviewer blogs out there, but not all of them review your type of book. A good reviewer site will have two things – a description that clearly lays out what kind of books they review, and an online form for you to submit your request. Make sure your book aligns with the site’s goals or it will end up being ignored. Unless it’s specified, you shouldn’t send a copy of your book right away, but inquire about interest first. If they have a reviewer on board who is interested, they will reply to you. If you don’t hear anything back, assume they are not interested and move on.
DON’T expect a release week review from every site to which you submit your book.
The vast majority of book review blogs/sites are run by people who are doing this in their spare time for their love of books. They aren’t getting paid, and while the idea that ‘you’re getting the book for free’ is certainly part of the incentive for running the blog in the first place, most receive more than they can reasonably review. Many review blogs that I know of are always looking for new reviewers to keep up with demand. Understand that while you may want a review posted by release week, you may not get it. Many have schedules set up several weeks in advance and if you submit a book with less than a month until release day they may be hard pressed to fit it in. If a site expresses interest in your book, send it to them. You may be pleasantly surprised by a really positive review several weeks down the road that coincides nicely with a sale of another book in your series. On the other hand, you may never see a review of your book at all for a variety of reasons. This is why it’s best to submit your book to multiple sites.
DO understand that once your book is out in the blogosphere, it’s out of your hands.
Of course every author hopes for only good reviews of their books. But let’s face it, there will be some people for whom your book does not resonate. And from a buyer’s perspective a book that only has 5 star reviews looks suspicious. Some of what reviewers say about your book may be due to personal preferences– they wanted a virgin heroine with an experienced hero/experienced heroine with a virgin hero/more conflict/less conflict/more sex/ less sex and so on. Some reviewers will nitpick about every little thing they don’t like. But some reviewers will have honest criticisms that should be taken to heart. If there are sexual consent problems or poor representation of diverse characters, a good reviewer will point these out. A review is written with the reader in mind but if an author chooses to read a critical review and take it to heart, it can be a valuable tool.
DON’T comment on negative reviews.
Generally speaking, you are setting yourself up for trouble if you see a negative review on Goodreads or on a blog, and you try to ‘fix’ what they’ve written. This is true even if they’ve gotten something completely wrong. When reviewers see #AuthorsBehavingBadly, we are pretty quick to talk about it behind the scenes. It means there’s a good chance that in the future a reviewer may refrain from working with someone seen to be a ‘drama llama’. A good reviewer though, if they realize they’ve made an honest mistake in their review will edit what they’ve written to correct it.
Authors have different opinions on what is appropriate behavior when it comes to positive reviews. Some authors believe you shouldn’t comment on any reviews because they are written for readers, not authors. This is perfectly legitimate. From my perspective, if an author likes a review it’s perfectly acceptable to say thanks for reviewing whether on social media with a comment or by reposting the review to their fans, or in a private message. Reviewers can often spend more time writing up a review for a book than it actually takes to read it! They appreciate that you acknowledge their time, as much as you appreciate their work. But there is no expectation on the reviewer’s part for the author to comment at all. It’s also important to recognize that mixed reviews are often the first ones a reader will look at, and may in fact sell more books than a 5 star one.
A note about Goodreads
Goodreads is a book review site. While some authors do interact with their readers on the site through question and answer dialogue, its primary goal is not to promote an author but to give readers a place to interact and discuss their book loves (and hates!). Once your book is listed, even prior to publication, it may already garner reviews and ratings. You’ll get a 5* from a fan who has been waiting for your book and a 1* from someone who sees the book blurb and shelves your book in a ‘never reading this’ shelf. You’ll get some reviews that are serious, some that are snarky, some that are amazingly insightful and some that you’ll wish you’d never read. Some authors will ‘like’ a positive review, which some reviewers will appreciate while others may feel a bit funny that they’ve been noticed by the author at all. How you choose to interact on Goodreads is up to you but a good rule of thumb is to remember why it’s there.
A note about blog tours
Before taking part in a blog tour, find out how the tour operator works with reviewers. Talk to other authors who’ve used them before. From the reviewer side, a blog tour has pluses and minuses. It usually requires posting a review within a short time frame, and also may have caveats about what kind of reviews are ‘allowed’. Since the blog tour is meant to be a promotional tour, it’s not uncommon to have a request that negative reviews be held back from publishing on release day but are welcomed thereafter. But if a tour operator specifies that only positive reviews are allowed, as a reviewer I’d be wary of signing up with them.
A note about social media friendships
A real online friendship between a reviewer and an author should develop organically. If an author sends a friend request to a reviewer on Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter and when accepted immediately asks if they want a review copy of their latest book, chances are the reviewer will regret accepting their request. I’ve personally come to know many authors from friendly conversations about a variety of topics (including other romance books) and it’s led me to a desire to want to read and review their books. Social media friendships can definitely be beneficial but they should be seen as friendships first, not just marketing opportunities. Also, it’s important to recognize that when a reviewer doesn’t like a book, it’s not a personal judgment of the author. It doesn’t mean the reviewer doesn’t like the author, or won’t like another book they release in the future. I’ve had books from the same author that rate from a C to an A.
I hope this post has given you some insight into how most review sites work and the part reviewers play in what is hopefully a positive relationship between a reviewer and an author. I welcome your comments or questions and wish you all the best as you get your books into the hands of readers everywhere.
Maria Rose first started reading romance books when her junior high locker partner would bring her mom’s Harlequins to school for them to swoon over. She is married with two young children and works full time as a chemist for a pharmaceutical company. She loves books that combine humor and romance, and any type of science is always a plus! You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.