Are You Following the Rules?

Authors hate negative reviews of their books. Criticism is hard to swallow, especially when we feel it is not deserved.

authors hate negative reviews

Since reviews are simply opinions, some authors choose to not read reviews. What they don’t read can’t hurt their feelings.

Other authors tend to get their undies in a bunch over negative reviews. They want reviewers to change their opinions. These authors tend to be concerned that a few negative reviews will ruin their sales.

In an effort to get their book to “look better” these authors will ask readers to make their review nicer. Whether the author does this in a polite or rude manner, reviewers can end up feeling threatened.

I recently stumbled across this tweet on Twitter:

tweet on book review

This reader was seriously concerned. In fact, she was so worried, that she ended up deleting her review.

Authors, do not forget that you are influential simply because you have penned a book. This influence is a sacred privilege. Don’t abuse it.

In fact, Goodreads recognizes that authors wield a tremendous amount of influence. The community’s Author Guidelines state:

 

  • Don’t engage with people who negatively rate or review your books.We cannot stress this enough. Goodreads is a community for all readers to express their honest opinions about the books they choose to read and shelve. Engaging with people who don’t like your book will not win you any new readers. Remember that Goodreads is a public space; other readers will see a reaction from the author and interpret it as hostile regardless of how carefully the response was crafted.
    • If you feel a review is in violation of our Review Guidelines, please flag it to our team’s attention rather than responding. To flag, click the gray flag icon next to the content in question and follow the prompts.
    • Remember that not every reader will love your book. It is unrealistic to expect that your book will only get four and five star reviews. Bestselling authors get one star reviews too.

Goodreads also posts the following note on their website:

Goodreads policy

If you are an author who gets upset over negative reviews, I suggest that you follow Goodreads guidelines for authors—not just for reviews on Goodreads—but also for reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online stores that sell your book.

Christian authors, I urge you to never forget who is in charge of your book reaching the people who need its message the most. If God has called you to write and publish your book, then He is responsible for helping those individuals who need your book’s message to buy it in spite of a few negative reviews mixed in with the positive ones.

Related Posts:
One Technique for Requesting Book Reviews
Book Reviews Are Social Proof
Easy Ways to Get More Book Reviews

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Photo courtesy of Sebastian Herrmann.

Thoughts on Book Reviews

I recently read these words in a book review featured in my local newspaper:

“The book is too long and poorly organized; perhaps it was rushed out because virtual news becomes old so fast. But, if you have a teenage daughter, read this.”

up or down

Is that a negative or a positive review?

I would consider it a positive review. Why? Because the reviewer recommended that anyone with a teenage daughter read the book in spite of its shortcomings. That’s a good recommendation.

I read a lot of book reviews. Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) BookCrash program offers bloggers a Christian book in return for a fair review. The reviews these bloggers write cross my desk. As a result, I have developed some thoughts on the power of book reviews.

1. If a reviewer is recommending that others read a book regardless of the negative comments she makes about the book, the review is a win. People will still purchase the book and read it.

2. A mixed review, one that lists negatives, but also recommends that people read the book, is a much stronger review than one that is just mediocre.

3. Mediocre reviews do not draw people into a book. Reviews like the following thee star reviews on Amazon don’t attract readers:

  • “Not exactly what I expected, but okay.”
  • “I don’t believe the book was terrible.”
  • “Solid, helpful content presented poorly.”

It is better that the reviews for your book are either hot or cold, over lukewarm.

4. A book that garners a handful of four- and five-star reviews along with a handful of one- and two-star reviews, is doing better than a book with mostly three-star reviews.

The book with mostly three-star reviews is viewed as just a mediocre book, while the book containing both positive and negative reviews is either really liked or disliked by the readers. Most potential readers are more likely to take a gamble on a book that people either love or hate than on one that is just mediocre.

So, don’t get discouraged if the reviews on your book are split. Your message may not be for everyone. You should be more discouraged if the reviews on your book are mostly mediocre. It means that your book needs some work.

Related Posts:
Are Reviews Important?
Are Reviews Really Important?
Are Your Book Sales Discouraging?

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Don’t Make It Hard

As a general rule, I do not review Christian books. As the Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), providing reviews of Christian books would put me in an awkward position. If I reviewed a book by one member of the association, then I would need to be available to review books for all members, and there simply is not enough time in a day.

ContactUs-1_1

The one exception I make to this rule is for books on book marketing and publishing. As the author of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, providing reviews for other books in this genre is smart collaboration. This gives the author of the book a review, but also exposes my book to those reading testimonials and reviews of the marketing or publishing book.

The other day, a fellow forum member offered copies of his new book in exchange for a review on Amazon. Since the book was in the genre of my exception, and since the book interested me, I offered to review the book.

I received the book in the mail. As is my usual habit, I cut the envelope open, pulled the materials out, and threw the envelope away. It wasn’t until I really took a look at the book later that I realized that the author had not enclosed any contact information. He had simply sent me the book with a sticky note attached to the cover that read, “Thanks for taking a look!” and signed with his first name.

I turned the book over and read the author bio. There was no website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter handle, or email listed in the bio. In other words, this author had not enclosed a single way for me to contact him.

While this author only requested an Amazon review, the lack of contact information may still close doors for him. What if I wanted to interview him for a blog post? What if I wanted to find another way to collaborate together on a book promotion scheme? By failing to provide easily accessible contact information, he did not invite or make himself available for additional exposure. Of course, I could go back to the forum and search through the archives to try to find a way to contact him, but who wants to do that?

If you are sending books to reviewers, don’t make it hard for the reviewer to get in touch with you, even if for no other reason than letting you know they have posted a review. Don’t make the mistake this self-published author did. All you need to do is enclose a business card, letter, or brochure with your book when sending it out to reviewers. Doing so invites further contact and opens doors for additional exposure for you and your book.

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Review-Swap

Over the years, I have written a number of blog posts on book reviews. One of the reasons for this is that I feel that I cannot stress enough how important reviews are.

please_review_my_novel

Readers want to know if a book is worth an investment of their time and money. One sure way for them to determine this is to read what other people think of a book.

There are a number of ways to go about acquiring reviews of a book. These include:

  • Submitting your book to book review sites and publications.
  • Paying a book review service to write a review of your book.(see “Paid Book Reviews: Should You Buy?“)
  • Asking friends, family members, and even strangers to read your book and write a review.
  • Using a book review service like BookCrash, a books for bloggers program.

Recently, a new book review service has come to my attention. EasyBookReviews offers a review-swap program. The way this review-swap program works is that you review a book on Amazon, and in return, someone reviews your book on Amazon.

EasyBookReviews facilitates that review-swap program for authors. An author pays the program $5. Then EasyBookReviews sends the author a link to purchase a book on Amazon (for less than $3). The author then must read and write a review of this book on Amazon. Once the author does these three things, the author will receive a review of his/her book on Amazon in return.

I think a review-swap program is a very interesting concept. Although, I do have a couple questions about the  program.

My first question is: Can an author choose what genre of book they want to review? Imagine having to review a book you have absolutely no interest in, just to get a review of your book. Then, what if the person reviewing your book has no interest in your subject matter—or is anti-Christian.

Another question: Is an author required to give a positive review? I also wonder: Does the program provide a guideline with some minimum requirements for a review?

These questions are not answered under the “FAQ” section of the EasyBookReviews website. Maybe these questions are answered when an author signs up for a review swap.

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Musings on BookCrash

BookCrash is a books-for-bloggers review program. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) began the program in June 2011 with the intent of helping our member publishers receive wider exposure and more reviews for their books.

bookcrashlogo-FB

The program operates on the premise that bloggers agree to give a fair review of a book on their blog and on one retail site (Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, etc.) in exchange for a free copy of a book. BookCrash allows bloggers to request books that they are interested in. The program does not require that a given blogger read any specific book; rather, bloggers are free to choose books that interest them. The idea behind this is that bloggers are more likely to enjoy and write positive reviews for books they want to read and are interested in.

As with all such programs, there are pros and cons to the system.

Some of the cons include:

  1. CSPA cannot force bloggers to review a book they have requested, since the agreement is based on goodwill. The only leverage BookCrash has is that the bloggers cannot receive another book until they have reviewed a requested book. Over time, we have had some bloggers who have received a book that never wrote a review.
  2. Since bloggers are allowed to pick a book they are interested in, not all books in the BookCrash program receive the same interest. Some books are highly requested, while others receive only a handful of requests.
  3. BookCrash does not require that bloggers give a positive review, just a fair review. BookCrash bloggers tend either to love or hate a book. Therefore, opinionated negative reviews are sometimes given.

Overall, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Some of the pros include:

  1. Increased exposure for a book. Each blogger has a regular reading audience. These range from 10 readers to over 20,000, with an average of 1,250 readers. When a blogger writes about a book, the readers of the blog are exposed to the book.
  2. Positive reviews can bring sales. Blog readers tend to trust the opinions of the bloggers they follow. Therefore, a positive review can result in the blog’s audience purchasing and reading the book.
  3. Increased reviews on retail sites. Having customer reviews on Amazon and other retail sites is important for shoppers (see my previous blog post “Are Reviews Really Important?”). Reviews on retail sites increase consumers’ confidence in the product, resulting in more sales.
  4. The cost to list a book as available for review on BookCrash is affordable. CSPA does not charge a large fee because we want our services to be accessible to all small publishers, but also because the BookCrash program does not guarantee that bloggers will want to read any given book or give it a positive review.

The important thing to remember is that a review is an opinion. After all, J.R.R. Tolkien said of his trilogy Lord of the Rings, “Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”

Opinions vary from person to person. BookCrash has had bloggers who have loved the illustrations in a children’s book and others who have thought those same illustrations were amateurish and uninspiring. When it comes to Christian books and theology, there are many different views. Hence, any book with an opinion on Christianity or a Biblical passage is going to be met with people who agree and those who disagree.

The bottom line is that Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) will continue to offer our BookCrash program as long as we feel that the benefits of the service outweigh the negatives. Any author or publisher who places a book on BookCrash does run the risk of receiving negative reviews.

If you are only looking for neat, tidy reviews, then BookCrash is not the program for you. You would be better off paying $300 or more for a professional review by a review service such as Kirkus or ForeWord’s Clarion Review. Of course, you only receive one review for your money, the review is not a consumer review, and you do not receive the same exposure as a blog review.

The choice is yours.

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