I love books, just love them! Goodreads helps me keep track of the books I've read, but I'm not just a reader. As a writer, I had to create my own policy for any public reviews I post.
Over the years, I've talked to other authors about publicly reviewing books. Some don't post reviews at all. Some will rate a book but not review it. Others rate and review every book they read, whether they liked the book or not. And some are like me--they rate and review books they love, but don't review books they find so-so or worse.
I pick up a book with the expectation I will like it. I don't read books that don't interest me. If the book was written by a close friend, I may offer to be an influencer for the book, and because it's written by a someone I like, I look forward to reading it.
Posting reviews on sites like Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com can be intimidating to me. I may be bubbly, but I'm always honest. I will not post a review for a book I didn't love. The vast majority of my ratings are four and five stars.
Questions I wrestle with:
1. Will an author be offended if I give her book a four-star rather than a five-star rating?
If I give a book a four-star rating--I loved the book! A small element distracted me from the story--one I try to tactfully address in the review--and prevented me from going full-blown five-stars. A four star review from me is a GREAT REVIEW! If anything major pulled me out of the book, I would give it a three-star or less, and I probably wouldn't post a public review.
2. Do I mark books as read in Goodreads that I personally didn't like even though the writing was stellar?
Since I'm a writer as well as a reader, I do not include books I didn't like on my Goodreads list. One or two of my earliest reviews included two-star ratings of NY Times Bestsellers I was sorely disappointed with, but I no longer even mark those in Goodreads. I try to review every book I read and enjoy, but sometimes, I lack the time and only mark a book as read.
3. What about posting my review on online book retailer sites?
Occasionally I copy my Goodreads review of a book to Amazon and other retailers. But I usually only do this for books I've agreed to influence. Like all of you, I'm busy.
4. What do I owe authors?
If I've offered to influence a book, I owe the author a thorough reading of the book, reviews on various sites if I enjoyed it, and I always help spread the word about it.
Occasionally, I get requests from authors to review their books. I've also won books from blog contests and later been asked by the author to post a review. I do not feel I owe these authors anything.
I find it off-putting to be asked by a casual acquaintance via a Twitter direct message or something similar if "I will do her a favor and review her book." It takes me several hours to read a novel, something I usually have to do in stolen pockets of time. I then analyze what I liked about the story and take more time writing and posting reviews.
Reviews are an investment of my time, and I am selective about what I agree to. If the author is a friend, someone I've met in person, someone I've reached out to because I liked her other books, or someone who writes in my genre, I usually jump at the chance to help her out. But if the author is someone I've only interacted with a few times on Twitter, who writes in a genre I typically don't read, or is self-published and I'm not familiar with her, I will always give a gentle no.
If I have won a book through a blog contest, I will be offended if the author then requests a review for the book. Authors who give away books should not expect anything in return from the winner. Period.
I am an unusual reader. I may own a book for three years before I decide to read it. The library stack of books on my coffee table may appeal to me more than the latest and greatest in my mailbox. Reading is truly a pleasure for me, and I refuse to put rules on it. I have rules for every other aspect of my life. I read what I want, when I want!
5. How can authors be more effective about asking for reviews?
If you're an author trying to get reviews for an upcoming book, don't just throw Twitter direct messages or Facebook posts out to random people. Put a little time and thought into it. Do some research. Check the blogs you're considering to see what genre books are typically featured. If you think your book could be a match, go ahead and send an e-mail to the person along the lines of:
"I enjoy your blog and notice you occasionally host authors and review books. My book, Title Here, is a contemporary romance through Blank Publishing and will be released on Future Date. Would you be interested in reviewing my book? If not, would you consider hosting me around my release date? Please do not feel obligated. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, Author."
Book reviews are a tricky business. When we publicly post our opinion about a book--even when we loved the book--we risk hurting a fellow author's feelings. I created a policy a few years ago that works for me, and at the end of the day, I stand by my decision.
Do you post public reviews online? Do you have a policy? I'd love to hear it!
Have a terrific weekend!!