Author Topic: Please Review My Book  (Read 4031 times)

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Sparkle Star

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Please Review My Book
« on: March 18, 2013, 09:11:03 AM »
Ok... Got a private message on Facebook from someone I know socially. I wouldn't call her a friend exactly, but I do see her regularly at events related to one of my hobbies; we tend to be part of the same crowd and have a lot of mutual acquaintances.

She is a keen amateur writer - a member of a lot of writing groups, she submits stories to magazines etc and has recently published an e-book, something people seem to be doing increasingly as it's a relatively cheap and easy way of becoming an 'author'.

The message asks me to buy her book and review it on Amazon as this will help her sales and rankings. While I think it a bit cheeky that she asks me to buy, the cost doesn't really bother me as it's next to nothing - 82p, which is what - a dollar?

What I'm uncomfortable with is reviewing the work of someone I know. What if I hated it and was honest? It would damage the relationship...but I wouldn't want to lie. This worries me as I have seen examples of her work in the past and don't find her style to my taste. (I freely admit that, as a former journalist who still writes for a living, I may also be a harsher critic than some when it comes to grammar etc.)

So I don't want to do it but don't want to offend her by refusing either. Any ideas as to the best way to respond?
Thanks in advance!
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Margo

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2013, 09:23:44 AM »
I think you'd be fine to respond by saying something such as "I prefer not to review the work of friends. I find it is hard to be objective about the work when you know the writer personally"

or if you don't feel comfortable doing that you could just respond with something which doesn't directly reply to her request to buy/review "good luck with your new venture" or something like that./ If she then pushes, you can revert to the 'not comfortable' option or simply say "I have a really big TBR pile. I haven't been able to get to it."

jmarvellous

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2013, 09:55:31 AM »
Your options:
1. Ignore. This is probably what most people will do with such a casual request that will require so much time and effort for no reward.
2. Say, "I look forward to reading your book!" And only review if you are comfortable afterward. If pressed, say, "I enjoyed your book, but I don't feel comfortable posting a review for a friend."
3. Say,"I have a full slate of reading material, but I'll be sure to let you know if I get a chance to read it." Then never get the chance.
4. Read it, find out you love it, and post a genuinely enthused review with a caveat that you know the writer.

I would pick #2, personally, but each strategy has its strengths.

Morticia

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2013, 11:22:32 AM »
Since she is asking you to buy the book, I would treat it like any other spam.
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demarco

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2013, 11:27:31 AM »
I'd ignore it.

LadyDyani

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2013, 11:56:44 AM »
I understand.  When a coworker found out that I enjoy reading, he brought me a copy of his book, and asked me to review it on Amazon.

Oh dear, deity of your choice, it was awful. I mean, horrible writing, plot holes you could drive a Mac truck through, bad punctuation, just getting through the first chapter gave me wrinkles from cringing.

Now back in that job, I worked on the deliverables for the entire department, which meant any of the contract negotiators could send work back to me to be redone for any ambiguous reason they could think of.  Also, when it came time for the annual review, they were to give their input to my boss.  So while I didn't work directly for him, I did some work for him.

Rock, meet hard place.

I ended up writing a very noncommittal wishy-washy review on Amazon.  I'm a little ashamed that I caved.
English doesn't borrow from other languages, it follows them down dark alleys and beats them up and searches their pockets for loose grammar.

Lynn2000

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2013, 12:08:54 PM »
Was the message personal to you, or did it have the feel of advertising sent out to her whole Friends list? If it seemed mass-produced I would just ignore it.

I second jmarvellous's suggestions and also Margo. If the message seemed personal I would probably respond with something like, "Good luck, this must be so exciting for you!" without ever committing to read or buy. If pressed I would probably go with, "Oh, I haven't gotten around to it yet," and quickly beandip with, "Have you gotten much feedback yet? What was the process like?" etc..

As a writer myself it can be hurtful when other people don't even want to read your work. HOWEVER, I would never ask someone I knew to read and review it unsolicited, nor ask them to pay for that privilege (however little the cost)! Of course I'm only a hobby writer, not a paid professional; I think when you move into the realm of "published author," even self-publishing, you have to get a thicker skin about that sort of thing, and realize not everyone is going to want to read or pay for your book, or if they do, that they might not like it.
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Sparkle Star

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2013, 12:48:10 PM »
Thanks so much for the replies - truly, you guys were really helpful.  :)

In answer to whether the message was personal - yes, it was. Or certainly the first couple of paragraphs were - after that I think it was probably a copy-and-paste job. But that was enough to make me feel I should respond, which I did along the lines of:

Hey Fellow Hobbyist
Good to hear from you and you must be so excited about the book coming out.
Thanks for passing on the details - I'll take a look next time I'm on Amazon.
In the meantime, I hope the marketing for it is going well and I'm sure I'll see you at Big Town Event on Saturday.
Take care.


LadyDyani - I think without this forum I would probably have ended up doing the same thing!  ;D
Love, dance and chocolate fudge cake - what more do I need?

MommyPenguin

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2013, 01:04:54 PM »
I was sent an advance review copy a book once.  The rules were basically that this is a promotional thing.  You don't have to lie, but you are expected to write a good review if you can.  You could make some negative comments, but the overall review should be good.  If you couldn't in good conscience write a positive review, then you weren't supposed to review it at all.  Because basically the author is sending around early copies of her books to friends to try to get some good news going about it before it hits the public.

I'd probably do something similar with friends, figuring that they're looking at me roughly the same way.  I wouldn't lie, but if I couldn't write a good review, I'd just not say anything.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2013, 06:02:17 PM by MommyPenguin »

Yvaine

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2013, 01:23:55 PM »
I was sent an advance review copy a book once.  The rules were basically that this is a promotional thing.  You don't have to lie, but you are expected to write a good review if you can.  You could make some negative comments, but the overall review should be good.  If you couldn't in good conscious write a positive review, then you weren't supposed to review it at all.  Because basically the author is sending around early copies of her books to friends to try to get some good news going about it before it hits the public.

I'd probably do something similar with friends, figuring that they're looking at me roughly the same way.  I wouldn't lie, but if I couldn't write a good review, I'd just not say anything.

I write for a review blog and I would disagree that the review of an ARC must be positive. Polite, yes, but it can be a polite negative review. I've usually seen it somewhat frowned upon to give a positive review just because you were sent an unsolicited free book.

Now, that's for strangers' books. When the author is a personal friend, I tend to "forget" to review it if I hate it, or just "keep meaning to get around to it," rather than write the bad review, for relationship reasons. Absent-mindedness as polite fiction!  ;D

The most annoying was when an acquaintance, rather than sending the ARC, badgered me into purchasing the book (for over 30 dollars) and then, on top of that, it wasn't good. Awkward!

Slartibartfast

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2013, 01:38:59 PM »
Absolutely nothing wrong with reviewing a book for someone you know - you can't leave a review for yourself or an immediate family member (Amazon will remove those reviews if they find out), but anyone else is fair game.  It's pretty common in the writing community - especially for ebooks - for authors to implore their friends and neighbors for reviews - it really does make a difference between selling 50 copies and selling 500 copies.

That said, it's definitely rude for her to ask you to BUY her book and then review it!  Most of my author friends who have a new self-published book send out tweets or Facebook posts saying "If you want to read my book and you're willing to promise to leave an honest review, I'll send you a free copy!"  If you suspect you won't like the book, don't take them up on it  :P  If you like what they write, though, it's a great way to find new books (and to find out which of your friends can actually write!)

(Random seasonally-appropriate book: Liam's Gold is one I did this with just this weekend.  Totally worth the read and I would have paid for it if she hadn't sent me a free copy  ;D)

If you want to read it, I'd pretend to have missed the "buy my book" part: "That sounds great!  Send me a copy and I'd be happy to leave a review!"  If you don't want to bother, though, just ignore the email - some authors are better at self-promotion than others.

Softly Spoken

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2013, 01:51:31 PM »
I have to respectfully disagree a bit with Slarti - I can see where "begging" for reviews from supporters would be popular and common practice for ambitious authors, but I don't think that necessarily makes it good etiquette.

I just got back from a seminar about marketing and publishing books. Based on what I was told by the instructor (who has 40 yrs experience in the business) combined with what I have learned on ehell, I will say the following:

Asking people to read your book and either a) give you constructive honest feedback and/or b) tell other people about it - that is okay. IMHO, you should not tell them to buy your book, that is pushy and crass. You can however tell them all the myriad ways they can find your book. I compare it to the "push vs pull" described when discussing gift etiquette. Telling anyone, family or strangers essentially "hey, drop money on my [book/play/movie/art etc.]" is not appropriate. You could, however, do something like invite them to a publishing party and let them know that *ahem* your book will be available for sale at said party. So you can sell your book, but you need to sell it the right way to the right people. I would not say spamming your list of FB "friends" ranks very high in sales methods, especially if worded incorrectly.

That being said, I think her greatest error was not asking you to buy it, but asking you to REVIEW it. The rule used to be that authors do not ask for reviews. This used to be mostly referring to them contacting professional book reviewers (that's what an agent/publicist is for), but since the advent of self-publishing/Print On Demand etc. and places like Amazon I think it needs to be amended. IMHO, asking for reviews, especially asking for good (possibly undeserved and automatically biased) reviews is tacky...and asking for good reviews for the express purpose of boosting your book sales is horribly unethical!  >:( You can ask people to read it and possibly review it, but you can not expect them to (unless it is their job like Yvaine above me and even so this means they are very busy reading other things! ::)), and you are not owed or guaranteed a good review. I wouldn't care if my brother gave my book a 4 star review...I want the total stranger who has no personal stake whatsoever in the book and no feeling towards me as a person to give me a 4 star review. Then I don't have to worry about things being awkward between us. :) Getting public reviews (as opposed to private feedback) from people you know is quite the double edged sword!! :(

So OP, you may read it or not depending on your preference, but IMHO you should feel no obligation to review it, and you are right to worry that reviewing it honestly (and negatively) could impact your relationship with this person.

PS: The OP's scenario is one reason why I take all Amazon reviews with a huge grain of salt. :P
"... for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
-William Shakespeare

"We find comfort among those who agree with us - growth among those who don't."  ~Frank A. Clark

BeagleMommy

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2013, 02:12:40 PM »
OP, you are under no obligation to review her book but I understand how this can be awkward.  My feeling is if you ask someone to review/critique anything, you have to be prepared to take the good with the bad.  No one likes everything even if it is created by a friend/accquaintance.

Margo

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2013, 04:05:54 PM »
I was sent an advance review copy a book once.  The rules were basically that this is a promotional thing.  You don't have to lie, but you are expected to write a good review if you can.  You could make some negative comments, but the overall review should be good.  If you couldn't in good conscious write a positive review, then you weren't supposed to review it at all.  Because basically the author is sending around early copies of her books to friends to try to get some good news going about it before it hits the public.

I'd probably do something similar with friends, figuring that they're looking at me roughly the same way.  I wouldn't lie, but if I couldn't write a good review, I'd just not say anything.

I don't think this is how ARCs usually work, and would be very reluctant to accept one on that basis. I think if you are reviewing a book your first obligation is to review it honestly, whether that means a good or a bad review. I would see a publisher who sent out ARCs with those conditions as unprofessional.

If you've been asked to review a friend's book then you are OK to go down the 'if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all' route, but I don't think  a professional organisation or publisher should be expecting or demanding that.

I've only occasionally had ARCs but the only condition has ever been that it's sent with the expectation that  you'll aim to review it and that you won't  sell it on.

MommyPenguin

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Re: Please Review My Book
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2013, 06:04:51 PM »
Okay, I stand corrected about ARC.  The friend who set me up with it (not the writer, but a friend of the writer) told me that was how they worked.  I had asked her about it, because I wondered what would happen if I didn't like the book (I did end up liking it a *lot*--the author really did her research).