Monday, August 25, 2014

The complications of obtaining a review

Ok, so you’ve sweated over writing your story, gone through the torture of edits, navigated the tricky shoals of formatting and finally have a published story.  Now to let the world know that it exists and find folks who will sing your masterpiece’s praises.  Simple, right?  Definitely NOT!

Consider that a reviewer commits at least 1-2 hours, often more like 3-4, to read and review a particular story.  Combine this with the explosion of published and self-published titles and it is no wonder that so many great titles are lacking thoughtful reviews.  A reviewer who takes the time to give a thoughtful evaluation (more than...”I liked it” or “this story was awful”) is quickly overwhelmed by requests and sadly, the joy of having a new tale to read does not necessarily compensate for the need to actually get recompensed for one’s time. 

Start by reaching out to folks who have written to you praising your work.  Politely ask whether they would be willing to write a review for you AND cross-post it to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, the publisher’s site, etc.  You might also want to ask if you can quote it elsewhere in the event that you really like some of the things they say.  Some reviewers have their own blogs and are hospitable for authors to come by and visit, others charge to host or advertise.  Don’t forget to mention (particularly if you are participating in a blog tour that features reviews) that you have no issues with the reviewer writing a less than glowing review but would appreciate the opportunity to be notified if the review considers the story to be less than ‘good’.  Diplomatic requests to simply feature the title itself and post the less than complimentary review later should be considered if you are participating in a tour that is directing readers to that site.

In exchange, don’t forget to go by and visit those blogs that are featuring your work.  Vote ‘this review was helpful’ on Amazon, ‘like’ it on Goodreads or Barnes and Noble’s site and ask some of your friends or family to also vote.  That’s an easy way to thank someone for their time and hard work. 

Cross-posting can be pretty frustrating...logging into sites, dealing with the eccentricities of each one, fighting off (or at least learning to ignore) the trolls that sometimes appear, so be grateful when a reviewer is willing to cross-post a review.  Don’t forget to ask if they can put it on the publisher’s website as well (if applicable).  A thank-you note is always appreciated...and it is even more thrilling if the review is quoted your newsletter, on your blog...or...on your book itself.  Reviewers are thrilled to see their words being shared (you’re an author, you know how good it feels when someone likes what you have written!) and once you have found someone who obviously likes your work, try to keep the lines of communication open so that you can ask that person about subsequent titles.  Please remember that this is a time commitment and try to give a reviewer a copy of the title well in advance of when you want the review posted and then send a polite reminder a week or two in advance of the preferred date. 

Remember not to get into arguments with those who write critical or hurtful reviews, better to take the high road and either thank them for their opinion or ignore it completely but by all means, make sure you thank those who are willing to write a review with constructive criticism as well as those who are positive and supportive.  Above all, remember that every person has a different opinion so don’t obsess over what is being written.  If there is something to learn, go ahead and do so, but if somebody is being malicious, ignore it, remember that there are plenty of nutty folks in the world!  

The Wild Rose Press


Sabrina York said...

What a wonderful article, ELF!

A lot of authors do forget, not only are we asking our loyal readers to invest their money in our books--we're asking for something far more valuable. Their precious time!

It's our obligation to make sure our books are the best they can be.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate each and every review for my books...even the ones I don't particularly agree with. ;) Each one represents a wonderful gift from someone who has done me the great honor of reading my creation.

pansypetal said...

Thank you Elf! It is extremely appreciated to have the time I spend as a reviewer acknowledged.

SheriV said...

Great post! :)

Anonymous said...

Elf, I love this article. While the authors are working hard to get the book out, a reviewer is giving time to read and write the reviews. I do think it is great that we get a free book to read, but do the math. If a book is 1.99 and we read it in 4 hours we are getting paid 50 cents an hour for our work. Plus the time it takes to write the review. I am glad when everyone gets a shout out and all are appreciated. ---

Joyce Holmes said...

Excellent advice, Elf. Reviews are certainly hard to come by and I greatly appreciate the few I've received.
I contacted a couple of the reviewers who gave positive reviews on my first book and asked for reviews on its sequel. One complied immediately (she loved it too!) and the other said she'd do it as soon as she could schedule it!
Although I wish it was easily to get reviews, I understand the amount of work involved on behalf of the reviewers. Thanks for giving such a balanced perspective of the process.

Savannah Chase said...

Elf as always a fantastic post.
We authors fight hard for reviews and I personally can't thank reviewers enough for the time they put into what they do. Even readers, the fact that they purchased our work and still reviewed it means so much. Not all will be good but you can't win them all. Thank you for all your hard work and all the readers who take time to review.

Anonymous said...

An excellent article, ELF. It's great that you acknowledge the work a reviewer does and suggest ways to make the experience more pleasant for everyone.

Reviews By Crystal said...

What a nice post. From a reviewer stand point I totally agree with everything you said. I know I'm always thrilled when an author likes the review that I wrote.

I tend to get really excited when I am quoted anywhere. I really appreciate that the author liked my review enough to use a quote.

You are so right it does take a big commitment to take on a book to review and to write a thoughtful review. I do love reading though and I have found a lot of joy sharing my thoughts with others on the awesome books I have had a chance to read.

Thank you ELF for such a thoughtful post. You hit a lot of great points :)

Unknown said...

Oh, how I remember the days and nights of reviewing.LOL!

What you've said here is absolutely perfect. Too many authors care more about quantity and they gloss over the quality of the review. Don't get me wrong--obviously ANY review is great. I've been told even bad publicity is publicity, so it is always appreciated by me. However, I've noticed SOME of the authors I used to review for could care less now. They don't thank anyone, they don't post links and they most certainly don't go out of their way to make friendships with reviewers. It's almost as if they expect to be reviewed and the reviewer should be "oh-so grateful" to have been allowed the privilege of reading their story.

Luckily, I learned a lot when I was reviewing. I know how wonderful it was to be told that someone appreciated me taking the time to leave a review and now, I do the same for people who review my work. Do we have to be best friends? No, but it's always nice to have people see that you're a nice person instead of just someone who wrote a story they liked, loved or hated. A few kind words can go a long way.

For instance, a few weeks ago I was told one of my stories had a few typos. The reviewer also said it was an entertaining story. Well, I hopped all over that. Great! He liked my story but found typos. I publicly thanked him. I also sent a message (I know it isn't supposed to be done. But I did.) I thanked him and let him know how happy I was that he appreciated the humor of the story and he replied back with great comments. He even let me know what those typos were. That one conversation led to a friendship, I found his books and he checked out another of my stories.

So, I'm rambling--I know. My point is this: Reviewers and Authors have a relationship whether they like it or not. Authors can say they don't read reviews. They can say they don't care. If that's the case, they should on both counts. Reviewers are supposed to be appreciated. Good or bad, that person checked out your book. And if they didn't like it, there's still a chance they might check out another of yours and actually like it because you took the time to be polite and kind (even if they weren't).

I'm not naive in the least. I've sat back, watched and learned. I know that I for one absolutely LOVE reviewers and if I ever have a ton of them, I will still thank each and every person for taking the time to let the world know what they thought of my book.

It's just how I am. And it's how the ladies who have commented here are. Each of them are absolutely fantastic people and our community should take lessons from them on how to behave. :)

Thanks for the great post ELF :)

Unknown said...

Wonderful article. I am not a professional reviewer, just an avid reader. I never wrote a review until this year. It was interesting to read your perspective.

Tara Lain said...

Hi ELF -- What a wonderful blog! There's a graphic floating around on Facebook that says "Save an Author. Write a Review." That is so the truth and yet authors don't always understand what a task it is to leave that review. Just the critical thought alone is time and energy consuming. Reading is fun but reading critically is work -- fun work we hope, but still work. And while authors don't get paid a lot for the hundreds of thousands of words we write -- reviewers usually don't get paid anything! It's so good to know what little we can do to thank the reviewers that mean so much to us. I will say, while sending hugs of appreciation, appreciaation, thank you from the bottom of my heart. : )

ELF said...

Sabrina, you are always so gracious about thanking folks who are supporting your work. It is always a delight to read your acknowlegements!

Pansypetal, I don't think that we as reviewers realize how much authors appreciate us sometimes, but I KNOW they do.

Sheri, thanks for the compliment and for taking the time to comment!

Rae (at least, I think that's who you are, lol). Thank you for coming by...and, you're right, when I calculate out the hours that I have spent reading and reviewing, I wish I had a way of taking up a collection, lol.

Joyce, glad I could give you a picture from the other side, as it were. I am looking forward to your new title coming out and seeing the great reviews you will undoubtedly receive. (0:

ELF said...

Savannah, thank you for coming by! I look forward to reading more of your great stories someday soon!

Anonymous...I am sorry that I don't know who you are but I appreciate you taking the time to read the post and leave a comment. I am in the unique position of being able to see both sides so I am glad to be able to help facilitate interactions.

Crystal, it is always lovely to read your reviews, and particularly appreciated that you take the time to find something positive to say about each work you read. Thanks so much for coming by.

Madison, I understand how frustrating it can be when folks do not reciprocate or appreciate your efforts. You as an author, really can see both sides of the experience. I look forward to reading more of your imaginative stories. Thank you for taking the time to share your comments!

Rhonda, that is one of the best gifts you can give an author (in addition to buying their stories, lol), to let them know how much you enjoyed their story. It doesn't even have to be a long can just leave a line or two about something you really enjoyed about the story (without spoilers). Thank you for taking the time to come by and comment.

Tara, I am not on FB and have never seen that graphic, but I love it! For the longest time, it never occurred to me that anybody else would care about my opinion on the books I had read. I would keep my own notes but it took me a long time to have the courage to start publishing reviews. I wish there was a fund for reviewers, that wouldn't carry the stigma of bribery, lol. Maybe one of these days... Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and comment!

ELF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Wonderfully insightful and true. Reviews are hard to write and so are the books being reviewed. Reviewers need writers and writers need reviewers. It's a symbiotic relationship. I'm grateful when someone is willing to review a book and value the criticism and potential for gaining new readers. In today's oversaturated market thousands of writers are struggling to be seen and read. Your advice to be respectful and grateful and to acknowledge a particular reviewer is wise. A good review is helpful to the writer and to the reader, but also to the reviewer who wants a following. The important thing for the writer is to make sure the work is the best you can make it and hope that the reviewer can write an insightful review that compels a reader to want to read the book. I've only had a few reviews and fortunately they were positive. I assume a reviewer won't review a book they hate...why do that to a writer and what benefit is it the reader. Thank you Elf for this wise article.

Sandy said...

What a wonderful post, Alf. As an author, I appreciate reviews and try to thank the reviewers if I see them. When I first started I didn't know where to go on the sites you mentioned to thank anyone.

The last couple of years, I've started giving some reviews, and I work just as hard on them as my stories.

therese patrick, author said...

Thanks for this post ELF. You're a reviewer who wants to expose the merits of the story and that's wonderful, and rare.

Writing a stellar review is hard work, especially when the story merits a top rating. Been there, done that, and I got really tired as I got stuff to read because I would post reviews.

Also, as someone who reads reviews of books and movies that I found stellar, there are plenty of reviewers who rate a story in relation to what they think a reader may expect. These reviewers have become jaded into using stereotype labels to categorize a story. If that ever happens to you, read a different genre...

"kiss-kiss" I adore reviewers!

ELF said...

Arnold, thank you for taking the time to visit. Unfortunately, there are far too many folks who seem to delight in denigrating complete strangers, I had to learn to not take it personally when my reviews started getting negative votes...although I really wanted to find out what they were objecting to! I am glad that you have had positive reviews and hope that you don't run into trolls!

Sandy, thank you for your comments. It took me several months to discover that authors appreciated having the reviews posted in other venues, and over the years, I have learned to ask for positive votes occasionally, especially since I don't tend to write catchy reviews so my rating level on Amazon doesn't necessarily benefit. I realize that authors don't think to give positive feedback to the reviewers, but often, publishers will not offer titles unless reviewers have a certain number of followers or a particular rating. Thanks for coming to visit!

ELF said...

Hi Terri! Thank you for recognizing the effort it takes to not write a cookie cutter review. I have found that it takes far more time than most people realize to write a review (which is why I often have multiple titles read but not written up yet, lol). I appreciate your coming by to read the blogpost and leaving a comment!

Gaele said...

This is information that we, as reviewers, are CONSTANTLY trying to emphasize to authors.

Put your BEST work out there (I no longer will review titles that are "self edited" the world's largest oxymoron out there.

Do not submit reviews to sites that clearly and obviously do not review your genre - I don't read 'horror' or 'christian-themed' stories - you would be surprised (or possibly not) at the authors who believe that I will WANT to make an exception for their title because well, "it's special".
EVERY book is special - not all are to my (or everyone's) taste - respect that when it is clearly stated.

Do NOT (ever ever ever) send out a 'form letter' blanket review request. If you can't be bothered to come to my site to do more than grab an email - I can't be bothered to read your email OR your book.

NEVER use another "so and so didn't give me a good review - I think you will" line. First - I'll check with "so and so" and tel them that you are demeaning their work. (yes - we do talk) then - I will not review your book - because frankly - what are you going to say about me??? Lastly - I email you telling you why - and that I have spoken to so and so and WHY your book is a no go. Don't give yourself that reputation.

Lastly - IF you have questions about a review - ASK. If you don't understand a conclusion - ASK. Do not make a blanket statement from one negative on the review and extrapolate that to mean the reviewer has no clue. Most reviewers (I know that I do ) will answer questions and use examples if you are questioning a conclusion.

Reviews are work - the good reviewers are 6 weeks to 3 months out for a review to appear. That is giving us time to give your book the time and attention it deserves.



Melissa Keir said...

Having been on both sides (author and reviewer) I understand how important that relationship is. I loved getting quoted by authors whose work I adored. Now as an author, I value those insights that reviewers have. They certainly didn't need to take the time to read my book and I appreciate that they are sharing their thoughts on my book.

Great post and very helpful for every author to read!

Laci said...

Great blog topic! Reviews are so hard to come by, and it's even harder to find people who are available and read within your specific genre. In the past I've had review requests backfire when people who don't normally read what I write (but didn't admit to it until after they've read it) turn around and post negative things, but I guess that goes along with it.

ELF said...

Gaele, thanks for taking the time to leave such great suggestions. I am embarrassed to admit that I have had titles even longer than 3 months, even though I have the best of intentions. Unfortunately, I usually have a pile of about 80 titles...and, the paying jobs have to take precedence, no matter how badly I want to read some of the review books. I appreciate your sharing your insights.

Melissa, thank you so much for taking the time to come by and share your insights as well. (and thank you for the compliment!)

Laci, that certainly can be frustrating and disappointing. I bet it has taught you to ask folks who want a review copy whether they read your particular genre. You have certainly made a good point (and, as you know, I enjoy your stories so just ignore the meanies and keep writing them!). Thanks for taking the time to visit.

Cynthia Sax said...

Great post, ELF!

I don't normally comment on a review unless the reviewer notifies me. Some reviewers prefer to maintain a distance between themselves and writers (so readers know the review is impartial) and sometimes a writer commenting on a review will shut down discussion of the book. Readers feel shy about posting not-as-glowing opinions of a book with the writer 'present.'

But I ALWAYS appreciate them, even the not-so-glowing reviews.

ELF said...

Thanks for the comments, Cynthia. You have given me food for thought, I hadn't considered that aspect. I appreciate your taking the time to visit!

Randi Alexander said...

Thanks for this eye-opening article, ELF. What a great idea - to use bits from reviews in my newsletter. I appreciate all the thought you put into this post.

ELF said...

Thanks for taking the time to visit. I appreciate the opportunity to enhance the relationship between authors and reviewers, lol.

Maddy said...

Great balanced and insightful article. As my mum used to say, 'if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.'

On the other hand, [I see on the loops] how devastating a negative review can be, even when it's obvious the reviewer either only skimmed the first couple of pages / didn't buy the book / had a free copy.

This is so even when the author has a ton of positive reviews, the one negative comment gets a disproportionate amount of attention.

Similarly, I like when reviewers specifically state what they didn't like--unsympathetic heroine, indistinct secondary characters, not enough descriptions--because that information is useful and puts the review in context which in turn makes it valuable to both readers and the author.

ELF said...

Thanks for your comments (and compliment), Maddie! I agree, I agonize the longest over writing reviews that have any negativity in them, as I know that the work I have read represents many hours of hard work...and I realize that some things may simply not resonate with me. I often wonder why people take the time to write uninformed negative reviews? Thank you for visiting!