What’s a Reviewer to Do?


I started Writing to be Read to promote my own writing and to help other authors, through writing reflections and reviews. We’re all in the same situation. Marketing and promotion are a big part of writing these days, and authors are expected to self-promote to some extent, even if they are traditionally published. The way that books are being rated now, in many places, including Amazon, by the reviews they receive. I post partial reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads for this reason, and have even taken the time to post on Smashwords and Barnes and Nobles upon request from the author.

But, what is a reviewer to do when a book she’s reviewing falls short of all expect a film, like my review of Angel Falls Texas on Friday? Every review I publish has an end note at the bottom which reads like this:

“Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.”

I don’t believe in charging for a review because I don’t believe in paying for a review. And I don’t believe in that because I don’t think you can get an honest review when it is paid for. And I do believe a review should be honest. While I amin favor of promoting other authors with my reviews, I don’t believe in hyping up a work when it is not deserved.

Too many authors get their books on the best sellers list simply by having great reviews posted by those who love the author, but don’t honestly reflect the quality of their book. It’s sad but true. (To learn more about what that best seller label really means, check out this article by Brent Underwood.)

As I shared my post for my review of Angel Falls Texas last Friday, I reacted with a sad on each one, because I hated having to publish such a negative review. It’s certainly not going to help the author sell books, which is usually my goal. In this case, to post a review to encourage sales would have made me feel dishonest to my own readers.

I do both solicited and unsolicited reviews. Those that are unsolicited are from books I purchased on my own and I use them as fill in posts when I don’t have any solicited reviews to publish. With reviews that have been solicited by the author or I have requested an ARC from the author, which don’t rate at least three quills, I usually contact the author, tell them my assessment, and offer them the chance to not have the review published. Most authors, like my author friend Chris Tucker, opt to publish the review and take their licks, but there have been a few who have requested that I hold off publication. These authors, hopefully, then go and make revisions to improve their book and then have me give it another chance. I’d rather do that than post a review that may hurt sales.

I try to be fair in my reviews. If a book is one of a genre that is not one of my favorites, I will state that in the review, being upfront about anything that may have influenced the my opinion. But honestly, as authors who are putting their work out there, we all take the chance that someone out there will not like our work, for whatever reason, and will post an unfavorable review. After all, we are only human, and we are never going to please everyone.

As a reviewer, I know I’m not going to love every book that I review. There will be times when my reviews will be less than shining, but I have to be true to myself and to you, my readers, and publish how I honestly feel. All I can do is try and be specific about what I didn’t like in the hope that the author will take it like a critique and find something useful from my feedback to help to improve their writing or the value of the product they put out.

I think the number one thing we, as writers, can do is remember what one of my Creative Writing professors, Russell Davis, said when talking about receiving critiques from our cohorts,

“Remember, it’s not about you. It’s not personal. It’s all about the writing.”


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What Amazon’s New Review Policies Mean to “Writing to be Read”


Originally, Part 2 of my Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing series was scheduled for today. The series will continue next week, but today I need to talk about the new changes in Amazon’s review policies, because it may directly affect the authors of the books I review.

Two of my reviews have recently been pulled by Amazon. The reason given was that I hadn’t spent at least fifty dollars on Amazon this month. Under their old review policy, if you had ever made one purchase on Amazon, you were eligible to post a review. I also noticed it posted that their review policy now states right on the review site that they do not accept reviews that are done with a free copy as compensation.

There are two issues here. One, I’m offering a free honest review, but it doesn’t make good sense for me to spend fifty dollars a month just so I can post them on Amazon. I don’t my reviews think I have ever spent fifty dollars on Amazon in one month. I am a starving writer, after all.

The other issue is the fact that I do offer reviews in exchange for a free copy of the book. It’s what I do. And I had been previously advised to state in my review that, “I received an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest interview.” This was supposed to make it so Amazon would accept the review, because it was right there out front where everyone could see, like a big disclaimer. Now, including this information will get my review kicked back.

Besides that, I don’t believe in paid revues. As a reviewer, I would feel obligated to give only favorable reviews if they were bought and paid for. I don’t give bad reviews often, but if I do give an honest opinion of the book, even if it doesn’t shine a positive light on the work. This new policy of Amazon’s will disqualify almost every review I give.

So, from here out authors please be aware when submitting a book for review, that while I have in the past submitted basic reviews to Goodreads and Amazon, I can no longer guarantee the Amazon posting. I don’t plan to start making purchases on Amazon for the privilege of posting. I can’t afford to do that, and I don’t think I should have to. But, I do plan to keep doing honest book reviews and posting them on my blog. Since Amazon has recently acquired Goodreads, there may be problems in the future if they adopt the same review policies there, but until that time, I plan to continue posting basic reviews on Goodreads. I can also post on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords if requested.

I know that Amazon rating is like gold to authors today, where the majority of the market trends are determined by reviews there, and I’m all about helping out my fellow authors, so it pains me to be unable to provide this service any longer. I can only hope that it won’t discourage authors from submitting books for review. I will also continue to heavily promote my reviews on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pintrest and Tumblr, just as I always have.

So that’s where my reviews sit at this time, and I may still have an upset author here and there, who didn’t see this post. But, hopefully, this post will make what authors can expect from my reviews clear, so there will be no misunderstandings in the future. I want to thank all the authors who have sent books for review in the past, especially for their patience when my review que got backed up due to technical difficulties, of which, I have many. Ask that authors submitting books for future review, do so with the understanding that the review appearing on Amazon is not guaranteed

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.