Reviews and the self-published author

I’m in a strange mood today – we’ve just come back from a trip to the mountains and as we got lower in elevation and the more the snow melted away, the weirder I felt. Like our vacation didn’t happen. Also, I’ve been eating nothing but sweets for three days. 🙂
I felt like writing something about reviews and when I logged on to Twitter this morning, I saw this tweet from The Story Siren:
“sending me an email lecturing me for not reading/accepting self pubbed books, makes me want to read them even less.”
Let’s talk about etiquette.
Most of the book bloggers that write thoughtful reviews and don’t trash or over enthusiastically praise (in other words, the ones you want to read your book) have a review policy. Take the time to read it, folks. If they say they don’t read self-pubbed books and you are the author of a self-pubbed book, don’t query them for a review. If they say they don’t read e-books, don’t send them a PDF and complain that you’re too poor to send them a hard copy. Follow the rules.
Your book will not be the one to change their mind. People have to come to things in their own time and the best way to slow down that process is tell them that they’re wrong about something and need to change to suit you. Move on to the next book blogger, there are literally hundreds of them. The indie book collective has lists by genre of book bloggers that read self-pubbed and accept e-copies. That’s a great place to start.
I can’t state this next bit enough – if you receive a bad review, don’t engage the reviewer. This applies to both book bloggers and customer reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, etc. If the review is inflammatory or doesn’t say anything critical about the actual book (I’ve just received a one-star review on Glimpse that only said, “how many pages are in this book?”) then you can ask Amazon or Barnes and Noble to remove it. Otherwise, just let it be.
Readers are smart enough to make their own decisions about whether or not they want to read a book. They will read the good and bad reviews and come to their own conclusions. Rest assured, some people will love your book and some people will think it’s awful.
The work you have to do on yourself as a writer is to get to the point where you don’t care about either. Not all good reviews are going to be, uh, good. Sometimes they’re three word, exclamation point-ridden silliness. Sometimes they say: OMG!! Luv it!! Not all bad reviews are going to be bad. Reviewers that give you low end stars, but write a thoughtful review outlining what they didn’t like about the book – these reviews are not a detriment. Also, I find that most of the time these reviewers will include a line or two about how your book was “not their cup of tea.” Fair enough.
I’m not going to pretend that I had a thick skin about reviews when I first started out, I definitely did not. I do now, because I’ve realized that while reviews are important for getting your name out there and attracting people to take a look at your book, they’re not that important otherwise. No need to stay up at night worrying about them. The people that like your book and review it positively will stick around to read your others, the people that don’t like your book and review it negatively will move on to someone else.
Our job is to entertain the people that want to read our books and to not waste time trying to win over the rest.
This blog is cross-posted on the Death by Chocolate blog and the Pacific Northwest YA Authors blog.

8 thoughts on “Reviews and the self-published author

  1. It truly is astounding, I must say, the number of people that don’t read submission guidelines (of any kind – not just for reviews) and just unleash the literary barrage regardless… I understand wanting to be quick and efficient, but goodness, does a few extra seconds of reading really stall that much?

  2. Very good post, Stacey! I’ve never even asked a book blogger to review anything I’ve written, although I did have one find my book on their own and write a good review. But it’s SO important to read the guidelines set forth by the reviewer. That’s common courtesy.

    I made the mistake of engaging a reviewer on Amazon when I was a newbie. Those comments lived on the internet a long time. I finally went in and deleted my comments, but the comments answering me back were still on there. I felt like I was being attacked because of the way the reviewer worded some things, like she was making fun if what I had said. I just didn’t get how those things worked. Now, I find some of the bad reviews are amusing because they actually make the reviewer look bad, especially a couple on B & N which I suspect are both the same person. I also found that I got the worst reviews when my book was way up on Amazon’s list. It got up to 135 at one point, and that’s when the reviews were the worst. When it came back down, the reviews got better. So you know what I suspect about some of those reviews. 😉 Anyway, you’re right…,do NOT engage a reviewer. Don’t start a fight. It makes you look REALLY bad.

  3. Really good post, Stacey. As much as it bothers me that not everyone in the world is ready to embrace the self-published author with open arms, insulting them by not following their policies is *not* going to help our cause. Spamming them when it’s clear they don’t want to read e-copies or self-pub only hurts us all.

    I’ve been eating nothing but pie for three days. (Well, it feels that way.) I feel totally weird. I hate actually wanting to eat healthier. Tomorrow! I’ll start tomorrow.

  4. Thanks guys! I thought maybe it was a bit redundant, but after reading that tweet this morning I decided that there are still people that need to learn to act right. LOL

    @vicki – my mom makes layer bars for me at Thanksgiving and Christmas and I feel the need to consume as many as possible before the New Year.

  5. I have to agree. I’m an indie author and reading a blog’s submission policy is a must. A good way to think of it is treat a review blog like you would an agent/publishing house. If you don’t follow their guidelines your stuff gets chucked.

    Also, engage reviewers who leave nasty comments gets you nowhere and often times delights the bully, because yes, that’s what the person becomes. I laugh and shake my head and continue to write.

    Readers who like your genre and your style of writing will find you no matter what.

  6. All good insights, great advice. Not following submission guidelines is simply disrespectful. As Indie authors, we depend on bloggers. It’s our job to behave with honor and gratitude, even if a review is less-than-gushing. In fact, a review that expresses insight and thoughtfulness,though there may be very few stars in that constellation, is extremely valuable. What one person dislikes, another might seek out. Accept and appreciate all feedback freely given, and if you feel a tantrum coming on – stay AWAY from the keyboard.

  7. I still don’t know where I stand with reviews. I enjoy writing them but I never read them when deciding whether to pick up a book – I know whether I’m going to read it or not; I don’t need a pile of anonymous people suggesting things.
    And reviews that aren’t reviews but plain old gibberish (like the one about the number of pages in Glimpse) are plainly a waste of everyone’s time.

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