Friday, May 17, 2013

My Book Review Policy

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.

Books (118 / 365)
Photo by somegeekintn

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 addy@email.com. 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!!


25 comments:

  1. This is really great, Jill. I have a similar policy... I read books with the expectation that I will like them, and if I do, I write a glowing review to help the author. If I don't like it, I quietly slink away and say nothing. I know how painful a negative review is so I choose to say nothing rather than something negative.

    That said, I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to books... I love them and love getting caught up in a story and am willing to overlook small problems. The other day I read a story by an author I know that I hated. One-dimensional characters, lame storyline, the works. And I was really surprised when I went to look on Amazon to see 65 5 star reviews and nothing negative. It made me wonder if my viewpoint is way off or if people are just throwing 5 star reviews out there. Anyway, just a telling moment. Thanks for the post.

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    1. I nodded throughout this comment, Erin. I feel the same--why put negativity out there over something subjective? I have read many books that people LOVED and I could only muster a "meh." It didn't mean the book was bad--just that it didn't work for me. :)

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  2. I struggle with this too, Jill. I finally decided to start reviewing selectively on my blogs, but your post has shown me I need to post a review policy as well. I don't want guest bloggers to EXPECT me to read and review their books!

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    1. It's good to be up front with guests. My blog is not a review site, so I don't have any qualms about saying no to reviews. :)

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  3. My "policy" is very similar. I only list books on Goodreads that I truly liked/loved enough to finish. I simply do not enjoy reviewing books. I never feel I do a book justice. The very few reviews I've written were for books I agreed to influence.

    I sometimes wonder if I'm too stingy with my reviews, especially when I love books. I know it means a ton to the success of authors, and even one-sentence, brief reviews are so important. I wrestle with this.

    Great thoughts today, Jill.

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    1. I'm super analytical, Heather, and I could write three-page reviews about any book I love! My reviews are typically short--two to four paragraphs--and aren't as intricate as I would like. But...there are only so many hours in a day, right?

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  4. I basically do the same thing. I don't post reviews out of my genre, and I never give less than a 4 star. I try to write a review, but many times I don't have time.

    Which is the more important review site, Goodreads or Amazon?

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    1. It's really nice of you to review books at all, Ella! It all helps. :)

      I don't know that one site is more important than the other. They're both means to help drive people to your book. I would probably lean toward Amazon, since it's a place of purchase. A good review there could lead someone to click and buy. :)

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  5. Currently working on establishing a policy b/c I get asked a lot--which I'm honored by. I love your points here, Jill, especially the one about thinking about how you approach folks to write reviews.

    Friend told me at book club last night an old friend asked her to read his book and if she liked it to post a review and if she didn't like it to offer him feedback. I dug that approach.

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    1. Even if it isn't a policy you're posting, it's good to have boundaries. I would love to help every author! But I would have to give up too much to do that.

      I love your friend's thoughts--great approach! Not every author wants feedback, so I give that author a lot of credit for putting it out there. Nice!

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  6. Great policy, Jill! I haven't written an official policy, and don't review as much as I'd like to--because I want to support authors! But like you, I only review books I like. I think reviewers who are also authors walk a fine line--because often times, we know the people whose books we're reviewing. We run into them at conferences and the like. And we want to build each other up and support the industry as a whole. So if I don't care for a book as much, I'd rather simply set it aside than than write a bad review...plus, man, people's tastes in books can be so subjective. So I don't want to be the person who writes a negative review and turns someone away from a book they might have liked...

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    1. We do walk a fine line, and I feel really bad if a friend of mine is offended I gave them a four-star review. To me a 4-star review is a great review!

      I agree, too, that our taste is subjective. I, personally, do not like Nicholas Spark's books. Does that mean they are bad? Of course not! Just not my cup of tea. :)

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  7. I have a similar policy, Jill. And I don't post reviews on books I don't like, however, having said that, sometimes I don't have time to post reviews on books I do like. But I do star them. When I get a chance, I'll go back later and post one.

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    1. Same here. I would love to thoroughly review every book I enjoy, but I don't have the time. :)

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  8. I like your thoughts on influencer responsibilities. Though for that, I do feel I have to read the book sooner rather than later (still have two I NEED to get read soon!). I do try to promote the life out of those books, if I enjoy them. If not...I get kind of quiet.

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    1. I agree. Books I've agreed to influence go to the top of my list and I make time to read them. :)

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  9. Hear! Hear! Jill, I loved this post!

    I don't have an official review policy, as I review very few books at this time. Part of the reason is just that--time limitations--and the other reason--I'm simply not a book reviewer. I read a lot of books, but I do believe it requires a specific gift to step into that ministry. I feel I'm gifted in other areas.

    And I'm glad you spoke to the Twitter DM'ing issue. Nothing saddens me more than to think I've connected with a friend on Twitter, or even FB, and I'm immediately hit with a DM to "Buy my book," "Review my Book," "Kiss my dog," or "Hug my grandma." LOL! Well, you get the picture. I like books, dogs, and grandmas, but we're not all suited to the same cup of tea. ...Or words, pet breeds, or lace hankies.

    And I like your stance on how and when you read books, too, because it mirrors my philosophy, as well. My TBR book/magazine pile is still overflowing from last year. When are you heading to the Ozarks so I can share my beautiful bounty? :)

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    1. I'm not a book reviewer either. I've always leaned toward influencing--helping spread the word about books I love.

      And don't get me started on Twitter requests. Ugh! Sooo bad!!

      Wish we could get together and trade books--and Junior Mints!!

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  10. Same. I would feel horrible posting a bad review. And I can't be fake and pretend to like a book. Usually I just don't finish books I'm not into, actually, so it's not a problem. If I'm an influencer, I really appreciate when the author tells me "If you don't like this, that's okay! Please just pass it onto someone else."

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    1. Yeah, I'm with you. I'm not giving every book I read 5 stars because that isn't authentic. I usually pass books I've influenced on to family and friends too! Even if I loved the book!

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  11. Excellent list, Jill! As I receive more requests to be an influencer/reviewer, I find myself mentally making my own policy, as well. You raise helpful points here!!

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    1. It's a fine line. I'm impressed with how other authors handle reviewing books. At the end of the day, it's important to be true to your values. :)

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  12. My reviews are pretty thorough which is probably why I don't review as much any more. I prefer to review on Goodreads where I don't have to give stars, only because stars tend to compress the whole of a book down to a number and I don't think that's fair.

    It's too subjective and I want to be sure I give any book I review a fair shake. Also if I truly didn't like a book, I won't review it. I don't want to hurt the author's chances of scoring new readers who are better suited for his work.

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  13. I've cut back on my blogging schedule to twice a week. I cut out my Wednesday book review post because I could no longer read a book each week. Occasionally, I'll review a book on Friday.

    Like you, I won't publicly review a book if I didn't like it. I don't feel obligated to review books I've won, but often do if I liked them. I have a book sitting on my desk right now that I want to recommend but haven't had the time to write up or schedule.

    Since signing a contract and doing a book launch, my reading time has shrunk. I also understand how important reviews on the major outlets are to authors. For those who've supported me throughout my journey, I make a special effort to help out.

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  14. Wow, I just read this, Jill. Sooo helpful! I haven't reviewed many books. I usually only write public reviews for books I love. I haven't been asked by many online acquaintances to review their books. I like your standards, and I'm going to keep them in mind. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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I love to hear from you!