Wednesday, January 6, 2010

When An Author Doesn't Want You To Review Their Book

As a book review blogger, there are various ways I receive books for review:

- Publishers send me books
- Authors ask for a review request and if I accept, they will send me their book
- I buy my books at a bookstore or on-line through book purchasing websites and Epublishers
- I borrow from the library or from friends.

Keep in mind when an author contacts a book review blog to review their book, it’s all in their hands. They should know the reviewer’s reviewing style and technique. Most importantly they should be aware that some reviewers will either, always give a positive spin/review on a book or will be honest and may not like the book in question. That means the reviewer has the right to post a no hold barred review regardless if you, the author, gave them the book or not. This is something you need to take into consideration when asking book review bloggers to review your book.

Now when a publisher sends out books to a reviewer or a reviewer buys/borrows a book, it’s out of the author’s hands. That means a reviewer can pick and choose what books they want to talk about and review. And if someone has purchased a book, you better believe they have a right to comment anyway they like on a book because they are paying for the final product. If this product doesn’t sit well with them, they can express their unhappiness with it. These same rules can apply when dealing with a publisher, even though some may feel they have to be careful what they say in review so the publisher doesn’t stop sending them books.

In my case, I’ve posted both very positive reviews, as well as very negative reviews. The majority of books I receive are from various publishers and even when I review a book and post a pretty scathing review, a publisher has never told me that I won’t be getting anymore books from them.

But it hasn’t happened of yet where I’ve had an author request that I no longer review their books based on my reviewing style or the amount of times I may mention how much I don’t care for their book. But apparently this is the case in regards to some blog review sites. Jessewave, who runs a pretty popular and professional book review blog that specifically reviews MM literature, posted about a number of authors coming to her and stating they no longer want her site to review their books:

A number of authors (you know who you are) have in the past requested that this site no longer review their books. Recently a few more have joined the band. So far I have been acceding to these requests, even though in some cases up to three different reviewers have independently come to similar conclusions about your writing i.e. that it’s not that great. However, in future I will no longer go along with these requests because, regardless of all the other fun posts, this is a review site and the readers who drop by are entitled to our opinions on all M/M books we read (positive and negative) to help them in their purchase decisions. Of course you want to make money from your hard work, but readers deserve to spend their hard earned money on books they can enjoy.”

Now I can assume these authors who have talked to Jessewave mean if their publisher sends her their book, either her site should post a positive review of the book or don’t post a review at all, especially if it is negative one. I guess it’s the belief that if a negative review is posted it will mean lack of sales for the author.

I find it a bit strange if an author personally sends their book in for review to a blog or site, they believe they will be given a positive review. Well, they are going to be in for quite the shock, because as Jessewave says:

Please do not send your books to be reviewed here if you you’re just looking for a promotional blurb to post on your website because you won’t get it, unless we think your book is deserving. If that’s what you’re looking for there are other “review sites” that perform this service - they are not hard to find since they only write positive “reviews” and profess that the book is “the best ever”, or they just regurgitate and expand the blurbs with no critical assessment of what’s between the covers. Also, please do not write your publishers if you’re offended by a less than positive review. Contrary to what you might think, even though publishers supply many of the books we review, often we buy the books we read. You do not have to read our reviews of your books if they upset you, but you might learn something if you read them with an open mind rather than being angry that we would dare to criticize your creation. No book is perfect but some are considerably less perfect than others.”

Book review blogs are for the reader and quite honestly, I rather post a positive review for a book and “pimp” it to the clouds over posting a negative review. But just as book review blogs are here to promote the best in books and authors, they are also here to do a service, to give balance and very bluntly warn readers about books that are not the best they can be ( in their own opinion).

I know this is where it gets uncomfortable because no author wants to have a bad review posted over their book they’ve worked so hard on. But what if an author read a less than positive review for their book and learns from it? See the negative review for what it’s worth, much like when we were in school and a teacher would grade our paper. We’ve all been there, where we’ve written a paper for a class and our teacher gave us a grade we dread. But, we keep in mind that the teacher wrote in remarks, important critical feedback that should help us write a better paper when the next one was due. And if you took that critical feedback from your teacher and used it when writing your next paper, I bet you received the grade you hoped for.

This is a never ending cycle discussed in regards to reviews and it seems more authors have become very public in their opinions on negative reviews. We see it on Amazon reviews and I’ve been hearing about private pleas from authors to book review bloggers asking or almost ordering for kinder and less critical or negative opinions of books.

Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works.

On a brighter note I would say the percentage of positive book reviews is much higher than the negative ones. That is something to keep in mind. And how many times can it be stressed that reviews are selective. Another person’s piece of coal is someone’s diamond.

I have much more respect for those reviewers who post their honest opinions, knowing they may have backlash from an author or the fans who can’t really see what the reviewer is trying to accomplish with their review. The same goes for having a great deal of respect for an author who can read a less than great review and learn something from it, where they thank the reviewer for taking the time to read and mention their book.

Look at it this way- as an author, wouldn’t you want your book mentioned and reviewed, either good or bad over not having it talked about at all? I think the worst thing for an author is when no one knows their book has been released, no one is talking about it or no reviews have been posted.



Wendy said...

Great post, Katie! I can't believe that those authors requested their books NOT to be review, I mean, isn't bad publicity better than none? Plus, as you said, reviews are our opinions, a book you love I might right-down hate and vice versa.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Also, if no one knows about your book, regardless of the review, how will a reader know it's available to read?

rebyj said...

Geeze, one bad review has NEVER prevented me from buying a book if I think I want to read it regardless of the reviewer.

Keta Diablo said...

Hi Katie, great post, and yes, I can believe there are authors who request a certain site not review their book. But this is rare. If however, a web site or blog is known for going after authors or certain publishers (ahem) then why on earth would an author want them to review books if they write for that publisher? Wouldn't that be the equivalent of literary suicide?

I think we should all be aware that this has happened, and no matter how well a book is written, it's a foregone conclusion it will get a bad review from Lovely Writer web site. At times, reviews are biased and political (key words here are "at times"). Bravo to those bloggers who review simply because they love books and attempt to give it their best objective critique without preconceived intentions.

I have been vocal about this subject in the past. It goes without saying that if a web site/blogger sets out to destroy an author/publisher for personal reasons, then authors have every right to ask them not to review their books. Readers also have a right to an unbiased review of a book.

Reviews are subjective. What one likes, another reader will not. Most authors realize this and should take the reviews with a grain of salt -- good or bad. (Except in the above instance cited.)

Thanks again for offering your take on this. And you are right, what happens to be one reader's coal may turn out to be another reader's diamond.

Best, Keta Diablo

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I've had people say they were going to read a book based on me saying what I don't like about it and I have disagreed with bloggers whose opinions usually line up with my own. There is a lot to be either learned or disregarded.

The potential reader is ultimately the one who is responsible for choosing what to read. If I chose not to read a book based on every negative review I came across, I wouldn't read anything, and conversely there are books that have had positive reviews that I wish I had not read.

In any case we will have much to discuss in April. LOL.

Lucy March said...

All ink is good ink. Seriously. Authors who ask anyone not to review their books have no idea how promotion works. Bad reviews don't prevent sales; nobody ever having heard of you at all prevents sales. Authors - stop shooting yourselves in the foot and don't worry about the reviews. Worry about the next book.

To the reviewers - these authors don't pay your wages, they can't tell you what to do. If you want to read and review a book, you have absolutely every right to do so. And, good review or bad, the smart authors are grateful you took notice of them at all.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Keta: I totally agree with you, especially if a web site or blog has a specific vendetta against the author or publishers. But some bloggers do just like to read and review books. An perfect example is that I posted a less than positive review for a much loved YA book on Amazon. Someone leaves a comment that I have a shady reason for posted the bad review, as in I wanted to get back at the author. I couldn't help roll my eyes, because I am not like that. I just thought the book was horrible, IMO.

Nicole: I do think reviews are great for showcasing books that some readers may not know about. Sometimes a negative review will make me want to read the book because I think, it can't be this bad, can it?

Very excited for April. ;)

Monica Burns said...

When I sent Kismet in for review, I knew it was possible you would find a lot to like or hate about it because reading is subjective. As I've said time and again, a review is just one opinion. And regardless of whether I agree or disagree with an opinion, the opinion is no less valid.

That said, I confess I am grateful for the lovely B grade you gave me. LOL But if you'd scored it lower, I would have gotten over it quickly. I also would have looked hard at the points you made. I still looked at the hiccups Kismet gave you. There's something to be learned from everything. I don't, as an author, have to listen to an opinion, but to discount it outright implies that somehow I'm brilliant, when I know otherwise. OTOH, if I think a review is totally off-base, I shrug and move on.

I do believe I have the right to ask my publisher not to submit to a review site. Just as it should be the prerogative of a reviewer to not read a book because they don't think it will appeal to them. But to send it in and then ask not to review, I can only go huh??

I do think it would be nice if reviewers could come up with a common standard that ALL reviewers used with their review grading scales. I don't care for star ratings, because there's no flexibility with making a 1/2 grade.

Good post Katie

Wendy said...

Katie - Exactly! I still maintain that a bad review is better than nothing.

I've read TONS of bad reviews about books that I've still decided to get because I want to read them and guess what? Some I've liked, others I haven't. Again, it's all very subjective.

bookmagic said...

Great post! I love bloggers with honest reviews. I don't trust an opinion of someone that gives every book 5 stars. If a blogger I respect gives a good rating to a book, that carries more weight with me. Also,I appreciate when a blogger saves me from a book that most likely would not be something I would like, though others may love it. All my reviews are honest and I think my readers appreciate that.
Authors should not try to dictate our opinions. I hope that those that do are the exception and not the rule.
I would love to tell my boss that she can't critique any of my work,lol. Life doesn't work that way

Jill Sorenson said...

@Keta Diablo "It goes without saying that if a web site/blogger sets out to destroy an author/publisher for personal reasons, then authors have every right to ask them not to review their books. Readers also have a right to an unbiased review of a book."

I have to disagree with this. First of all, I don't believe that a review site can destroy an author or publisher, even if they wanted to, which seems farfetched. Two, there's no such thing as a totally unbiased review. Three, authors should have no say in reviews. Once the work is out there for public consumption, an author can't order someone not to express an opinion about it!

An author can refuse to submit to certain review sites--that's perfectly logical and fair, IMO. But a reader can buy any book, and review any book. That is their right.

Kati said...

Fascinating post, Kate.

I am someone who really hates to write a bad review. I'd rather not say anything than say something ugly. That being said, if I'm supposed to be writing a review, and I don't like the book, I'll say so. But I'll also say *why*. I do try very hard to keep in mind that an author worked their tails off writing the book and it takes guts to put your work out there.

But sometimes I do get bitter at authors who I love who put out a product that I think is less than they're capable of. And I say so.

My feeling is, though, that if you publish a book, it's open to review. And it's NOT OK for an author to say, "I don't want you to review my book." If it's out for publication, I'm welcome to review it.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Has there been any proof of a known review that ruined an author's career?

Also keep in mind about tv and movie reviewers. There are some harsh reviews I've read where I cringed and still a movie would go on to do very well.

But again if someone has some sort of evil vendetta against the author, I think a reader will figure it out quickly.

Gary A. Ballard said...

Any author asking a reviewer not to review their books is just looking for free positive hype. If you send your book to anyone to review, you better be ready for whatever they have to say good and bad. I may not want negative reviews of my book, but I sure don't want dishonest reviews of it. It hurts the industry and insulates me as a writer from criticism. That kind of insulation leads to travesties like the newest Star Wars trilogies.

Monica said...

Great post!

I say more power to her. Whats the point of the America Constitution if someone is going to tell her what she can and can't write. Lame.

Heck, I don't know other countries freedom of expression laws but I'm pretty sure they are there too.

Chris said...

@KB: Great post!

@Keta: I certainly haven't seen any indication that Jessewave would be among those websites/bloggers that "sets out to destroy an author/publisher for personal reasons"...


Not every book can be an A+/A book or even a B+/B book (excellent and above average). Realistically, most books are going to hover around average - the edges of the bell curve (the very good and the very bad) are the exceptions, to be treasured or avoided, as the case may be.

From looking at my LibraryThing, I'd say that most of what I read rates three out of five stars - probably B-/C+. Those are still very enjoyable reads!

Shiloh Walker said...

One review site isn't going to make or break an author or a publisher.

Me, personally, I'll talk an honest, critical review of my books over an overly glowing, gushy five star review that comes over as...fake. Give me an honest review-that's all I ask. Well, that, and pretty please limit the spoilers... ;)

Abigail [All Things Urban Fantasy] said...

Well that's a new one, 'don't review my book.' I recently had to publish my first completely negative review for a book that came directly from the author. I anguished about it because the author was soooo nice (I really wanted to love her book), but ultimately, my blog is for the readers and I promised that I would always give my honest opinion. I hate feeling like a jerk though, so a while ago, I implemented a feature called 2nd Opinion Reviews where at the bottom of each book I review I invite other readers/reviewers to submit their review as long as it disagrees with mine. It allows me to keep my integrity and not feel the urge to stifle my opinion while giving every book an opportunity for both a positive and negative review (if they exist). My readers have really appreciated hearing both sides.

Wendy said...

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Jessewave is getting these types of "requests" because her blog is geared towards M/M. M/M is still, what I consider, a "niche" market. Before the trolls come out to get me - is M/M gaining in popularity? Yes. Is it as widely read as "straight" romance?

Um, no.

I suspect the "fear" is that any negative review(s) will keep the sub genre from growing in popularity. Of course this is hogwash, but there you have it.

This exact same thing happened back in the Internet Dark Ages when TRR and AAR started posting no-holds-barred reviews of romance novels. Many authors got very upset and "boycotted" said sites telling their publishers to not send ARCs and they would turn down interview requests. The concept of a negative review in romance circles was really foreign. Because up until that point, the only places where readers could FIND reviews of romance novels tended to be nothing but the lovey-dovey-gushy-squeee variety.

Over time, this has changed. New authors, who "grew up" with sites like TRR and AAR, have come to realize that negative reviews happen. Do they love it when their book gets reviewed negatively? Of course not. What author does? But I think they realize that it "comes with the territory." And certainly, some of the Old Guard has come around as well.

The same thing will happen with M/M. It's just going to take time.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Wendy: good call. I never thought of it that way. I know Jesse's site has gained in popularity over the past year and she is the only one I can think of besides Jenre and Sarah- Rain of the Roof blogs who reviews exclusively MM romance.

And with gay romance gaining in popularity, I wouldn't be surprised if more blogs like Jesse's are created.

Mandi said...

Great post KB

I don't have a lot to add that hasn't already been mentioned. I massively cringe when I have to write a less than positive review..but there is no way I write - hey good book - if I didn't like it. Be respectful, but HONEST. Who wants to read a review site that only posts positive reviews?

And with the variety of review sites available, including Goodreads etc...there will be MANY opinions on books...there is no way they are always all going to be positive..and everyone knows that.

Anthea Lawson said...

Great post, Katie! As an fairly new author myself, it's scary knowing that your book is "out there" and WILL get a variety of reactions--including some negative ones. There is no way a book could please everyone.

Personally, I love the candid reviews. I even sent Mrs. Giggles my two novels (and tried not to worry too much about the possibility of getting two difficult-to-take reviews). She liked one book a great deal, found the other so-so(the hero didn't work for her) ~ and I really appreciated her thoughtful analysis of what worked and what didn't for her as a reader.

Ultimately, an author has to believe in their work and themselves, and not base that on outside validation. Sure, some outside validation is nice (grins!) but, as was mentioned upthread -- diamonds for some is coal for others. And authors should get that, no matter how personal or difficult it can be when faced with a hard review.

So thank you to all the bloggers who lay it out straight, from an author who appreciates the honesty~

orannia said...

Great post Katie - thank you! It's like Anthea said:

There is no way a book could please everyone.

It's just not possible. And reading is like looking at art, it's subjective. You analyze it through a series of filters that are specific to you, so it's as you said: Another person’s piece of coal is someone’s diamond.

And as for the review itself, I really appreciate an honest review..and kudos to the reviewer for telling it straight up rather than sugar coating things. I need to know 'why' a book is other words, I need the show, not tell. And you said it so well, if you don't get the feedback, how can you improve?

Keira of LoveRomancePassion said...

Reviews are so subjective too. I mean just look at this one case between me and 2 DA reviews of the same book (Price of Desire by Jo Goodman):

They both give it high grades B+= to A-. Me? I give it a half a star for being way ridiculous on the angst scale. I love angst, but I got a limit.

Clearly different blogs/readers will review books differently. The audience too is subjective and knows what it likes. They will judge reviews based on their own particulars and respond accordingly.

Telling a reviewer to not read your book or review it is giving them a lot of power, but also shows the author doesn't have faith in the audience members of the blog site.

ErotRomReader (Janna) said...

Wonderful post, KB!
I'm relatively new at reviewing romance novels on my blog and so far I've had only very nice comments from authors. I'm always a bit nervous about being negative in my reviews but I can't be anything else than honest. It amazes me when an author responds very kind and even agreeing with my arguments, like Jude Mason did the other day at a review I did about her book.
You wrote "But what if an author read a less than positive review for their book and learns from it? See the negative review for what it’s worth" and I must say that when they do and let me know, I even respect them more! And it makes me less nervous to write not so positive reviews.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

As an author, I've tried to learn from the less than stellar reviews. What aspects can I change in future books? What can I improve?

It's tough, because we are so attached to our work. But we can't take reviews personally. If an author feels good about himself and his writing, then he'll be able to take his ego off the line and view the review objectively. (An author who has a complete meltdown over a poor review obviously suffers from a poor self image!)

And a reviewer should never attack the author, any more than the author should attack the reviewer. Common courtesy! Although like common sense, maybe not so common...

Smokinhotbooks said...

My inner liberal cringes at the thought of a review site being told NOT to review certain books...especially the m/m genre. I understand how authors would feel if the review site's MO to rip books a new one. But as an avid reader and novice blogger I really do prefer review sites that give honest opinons. *chuckle* Hello that's why I stalk your blog KB!

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Stalk away! Very sexy. ;)

Anonymous said...

"Telling a reviewer to not read your book or review it is giving them a lot of power, but also shows the author doesn't have faith in the audience members of the blog site."

These are the words to live by.

Whether reviews could help to sell a book is completely irrelevant.
For authors, a review brings an awareness of their book to readers, and perhaps in some cases, give their book some cred that promotion or advertising can't generate.
For readers, a review is an opportunity to make an informed decision to read/buy/borrow/avoid/whatnot as well as an opportunity to discuss the book.
For reviewers, it's an opportunity to share their opinions of said book.

If author doesn't want her book reviewed at a certain site, it's not the end of the world for author or reviewer. For reviewer, there's always another book to review - and for author, another site.

However, the book will be forgotten in a few months' time, so it's up to author to decide which comes first: her ego or her book sales. JIMO, anyway.

Anonymous said...

And that post above is mine. Forgot to sign my name. Sorry.

But yeah, Keira's comment is definitely worth to live by. :D


TrustMe_2_Forget said...

Great post! I get so irradiated with people who will only post positive reviews. Constructive criticism isn't a bad thing, and even if you don't like it, well, it's your opinion, something we ALL have.

beverley said...

I always go by the old saying:
"If you can't stand the heat..."

Once your put your body of work out their for consumption, all bets are off.


Kelly said...

Great conversation here! I love the idea of the "2nd Opinion Reviews" mentioned above. I might do something similar. :)

I'm in an interesting situation where I'm a wannabe author reviewing books in my wannabe genre. There's the added element of possibly alienating future colleagues. But I try to be fair, remember the work that went into writing the book, and point out exactly why I had a problem with the book.

I also do not like book review sites where all the reviews are positive.

Holly said...

I absolutely agree with you about an author asking for the review he/she gets when she or her publisher submits to a review site. Good or bad review, the author in question needs to step back and just take a hit.

However I really disagree with what you say about taking a negative review as a way to improve your work. Different folks, different strokes. One reviewer might not like a book because it is not their cup of tea. The purpose of the reviewer is not to teach an author a lesson in how to write a book. It's to inform readers (who presumably have similar tastes) whether the reviewer enjoyed the book or not, and why. As a reader I step back from such reviewers.

Hagelrat said...

I try to be honest but not unkind. Some people struggle with criticism and yes it is quite clear that some authors feel that if you weren't specifically requested by them to review the book that you have no right to be negative about it.
Of course a negative review is not always a bad thing. When it comes to paranormal YA one blogger and I have polar opposite tastes so if she doesn't like the characters in a book I buy it. :)

heidenkind said...

Criticism is a part of life. If authors can't handle bad reviews of their work, they should probably not publish.

Kristina Cook/Kristi Astor said...

Count me in as one of the authors who'd MUCH rather find honest, negative reviews of my books than no reviews at all!

Ally Blue said...

It just astounds me that any author would actually ask any reviewer NOT to review his or her book. Especially, as has already been pointed out, in the gay romance genre. Wave's blog is one of only a tiny, tiny handful reviewing gay fiction exclusively, and she has a large following. Besides that, she and her guest reviewers are always fair and balanced in their reviews. They explain in detail what worked and what did not for them. I told her on her blog and I'll repeat it here, I am very glad she took the stand she did and decided to stop honoring requests to NOT review books.

I totally agree with others who've said that, while authors/publishers certainly have a right to not send out copies of books for review, they should never be able to say to anyone, "you can't review this book". Once it's been published, it's out there for public consumption. Dealing with public opinion -- the bad as well as the good -- is something all authors must learn to do, for our own sanity if nothing else :)

alterlisa said...

Great post. I always feel a bit conflicted about not leaving a glowing report of a book that I have received free as opposed to being a bit more frank that the book just wasn't my cup of tea if I bought it. I do try to remember that if it's my money I'm plunking down that I'd want an honest opinion of the book when reading the reviews. I realize that everybody's taste is different and that what might appeal to them may not appeal to me. I have often purchased the newest book by a favorite author only to be very disappointed and kick myself for not reading the reviews prior to purchase as they were less than favorable. Often I probably would have gotten the book anyway just to see what I thought but at least I wouldn't have been as disappointed.

Mitzi H. said...

Hi Katie,

If you were buying a house would you want the appraiser to give the home the "value" the seller wants....Or the "value" it's worth????

No different with a book. As an (ombudsman) you do not take sides and only report the truth.

So, as an appraiser of the story, you much give your (true) valuation and let the chips fall where they may...IMO.

Mitzi H.

Mitzi H. said...

I'd like to add....that if you are blogging or reviewing books for money, it doesn't matter. What you decide is what your opinion...But,

We readers must also realize that reviews are subjective to the reviewer's opinion....and may be different that our own.

There are many books I've read...And Loved...That have had (less than outstanding) reviews.

Mitzi H.

Ruth said...

Good post!

Totally agree.

Nuff said. :)

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Thanks all for your comments and discussion on this topic. I hope it has brought to light certain things, especially how and why book reviewers in the blogging world review the way they do.

Rebecca :) said...

This post rocks. I am so glad you wrote this because it was very much needed. In fact as I try to come up with the right words for my review policy, the words of Jessewave have helped me tremendously. I am not a promotional site, I am a reader who reviews books. That is the perfect way to say it. Great discussion here.

Harry Markov said...

Ah, awesome and amazing post as always Katie and I had no clue that authors would in fact request for non-reviews. As many others have voiced this is strange and literary suicide, because even if a book is negatively talked about, hype is being generated, opinions balance and weigh each other to give a clear perspective of whether the book has enough bonuses or minuses to generate a buy.

Lenore said...

I've seen this happen a few times...authors sending out books for review and then saying they'd rather you not post about it if you hate it. I mean fortunately I only request books that I'm pretty sure I'll like, but it does make me uncomfortable when I get requests like that.