In the past 18 months, I’ve turned from writer, to aspiring author, to published author, and I’ve learned so much about both the craft and the business of writing… and yet there is always more to learn.
One of the hardest things to navigate is etiquette in this new publishing world, and there’s so much differing opinion that it’s hard to know what is and isn’t the ‘done thing.’
Something that intrigues me is the relationship between authors and the book reviewers and bloggers who have such influence when it comes to telling the reading world about the books they’ve read and enjoyed. (And those they haven’t enjoyed). So, I thought I’d ask four Australian book bloggers to share some insights at my blog… so I’ll know when I’m stepping over those social media lines!
First, a little about them:
Monique Mulligan (Each Day A Gift)
Former journalist & editor living south of Perth, freelance public relations & blogger (plus wife, mum, housekeeper & chauffeur).
Website Facebook Twitter: @writenote1
Bree Testa – (All The Books I Can Read)
Diehard Sydney Swans fan, mother of two, from Melbourne, Australia.
Website Twitter: @1girl2manybooks
Shelleyrae Cusbert – (Book’d Out)
Shelleyrae is a blogging powerhouse, reading books of all genres but with a special place on her bookshelf for Australian authors.
Website Twitter: @bookdout
Marcia Bezuidenhout – (Book Muster Down Under)
Living in Queensland, Australia, Marcia took a step back from blogging commitments in late 2013 to concentrate on study.
Website Facebook Twitter @bookmustdownund
Q: Authors are warned not to react to reviews of their books on the blog, nor to thank or leave a comment about a review (including ‘liking’ the post). Instead, my advice has been to contact the author privately (email) with thanks. What do you think?
Monique: I think that’s sound advice, for the most part, though I don’t mind if I get a ‘like’ on the blog. I do like it when I get a thank you email from an author. It’s positive feedback for me and when I’ve put a lot of thought into a review, it’s good to see.
Bree: I have been contacted in all sorts of ways – on the blog, via twitter, via email, etc. I love hearing from authors whose books I have read and I honestly don’t mind if they do comment on the post of the review. I think that as long as everyone keeps it friendly and respectful, even if there’s discussion and debate, it can all work.
Shelleyrae: Personally, I am pleased to have an author leave a comment thanking me for the review or liking the post but if the author wants to make any specific comment then I think that is best done via email.
Marcia: Personally, I think that’s a load of twaddle, but each to their own! If it’s a good review, I don’t see why the author shouldn’t be able to comment or ‘like’ it – after all, it is their work that the blogger is talking about and a review, after all, is a form of advertising the author’s book.
Q: Have you ever been on the receiving end of a ‘diatribe’ from an author who doesn’t agree with your review in a public forum. How did you handle this?
Monique: No. I do try to be diplomatic and respectful, and find something positive in each book I choose to review. If I can’t do that, I let the publisher know, or give the book a shout out with a brief reason why I did not finish the book.
Bree: No, I can honestly say that I haven’t. I only post my reviews on my blog, on goodreads and on thereadingroom.com. I tend to avoid Amazon. I don’t check there for reviews of books I’m interested in and the only time I tend to read reviews there is when I’m being directed to one that’s gone to hell in a handbasket. I have had people disagree with my reviews – just not the author. However if one did, I’d refuse to engage in anything other than a proper, civilised discussion. Differing opinions are fine – and if I’ve missed the point of something or perhaps not gotten what the author was intending to say, I’m happy for that to be pointed out. However as long as they understand as well that my opinions as a reader are valid.
Shelleyrae: I have had one author take issue with a review but it was handled privately and I stood by my review. I have had two reviews on the blog become venues for grudge matches though. In one instance between the author and a commenter and in another between supporters of the author and detractors. Eventually I emailed the parties involved and stated I wouldn’t approve any further comments. I’ve also recieved the odd nasty comment on Amazon from other reviewers but I’ve ignored them.
Marcia: Thankfully, no, I haven’t! I tend to have a policy where, if I don’t enjoy a novel and I know that it’s going to come in under 3 stars and there is absolutely nothing positive I found whilst reading, I do not write a review.
Q: If an author doesn’t agree with your review. Is there any point at all ‘debating’ it with you?
Monique: My opinion is my own. I’m going to like some books and not others; I just try to be respectful in how I convey my thoughts.
Bree: Yes, but only if the author is genuinely interested in how/why I felt that way and can accept that and take it on board. Likewise, I am interested in what they were looking to achieve. But all of this has to be kept friendly. I know it can be hard – authors see books as their babies, their accomplishments and it’s very easy to become defensive and passionate about it.
Shelleyrae: No, never.
Marcia: Absolutely not. After all, reading is extremely subjective, and some books may appeal to a different audience.
Q: Do you like to see your reviews ‘shared’ by the author, or used as marketing.
Monique: I do like it when I see that the author has linked to the review on their website, FB or Twitter. It’s positive feedback for me and when I’ve put a lot of thought into a review, it’s good to see.
Bree: I do. After all, I’m reviewing so people can see it! The more people that do, the more chance you have of gathering people’s interest in a title. Even if my review isn’t glowing or 100% positive, there are people out there who will see what didn’t work for me and go “Hey, I love that idea!”. I’m happy for quotes to be used so long as they’re attributed to me and the blog, etc. I’ve had several authors ask my permission to quote my review or use it on their blog and I have been quoted by a publisher on a book cover as well!
Shelleyrae: Yes, certainly – tweet, post, facebook freely – though I appreciate being notified if a quote will be used on a book cover or similar.
Marcia: I honestly don’t mind – not that a lot of my reviews are “shared”. This is a great way to advertise the blogger’s blog as well. Who knows, the person clicking on your review to read it and being diverted to your blog can possibly find other reviews of novels that they may enjoy. Of course, I was very excited to see that I had been quoted on the back of a recently published Penguin novel with my blog name underneath it.
Q: You all have guidelines on your sites. Is it ever worth the author ‘ignoring’ your guidelines.
Monique: This happens quite a lot, especially with self-pubs. Most of the time, due to the volume of books I’ve got, I say no. However, a really good pitch letter (especially one that shows the author is not just bombing everyone with review requests, but has taken time to read some of my reviews and see where my interests are) can sway me. It’s happened twice in the last three months, but I would have said no to about 10 before that.
Bree: I changed my guidelines not so long ago to narrow the field of books I was being pitched outside of traditional publishing because as the blog grew, so did my commitments. To be 100% honest, I don’t usually enjoy being contacted by people who pitch me something that I’ve expressly stated I’m not accepting at the current time. It’s ok if they check my interest or ask to be considered at a later date but I really dislike it when authors send me their book without asking if I’m interested in a “here, read this” sort of way. If an author wants to pitch me something that’s outside my comfort zone, the best way I’ve experienced was an author who wrote me an email that said “Hi, I noticed you’re doing X reading challenge and need a book for Y category which you’ve said is not your forte. I think my book might apply in these ways and would you like to use it for that?”
Shelleyrae: I receive up to 50 review requests a week and while I do read every request, I have to be very selective about what I choose to review so the guidelines are in place for a good reason. An appeal that ignores them is more likely to irritate rather than intrigue me.
Marcia: It depends on what guidelines are being ignored. As an example, I may read Christian literature in my own personal time, but I have absolutely no desire to review that literature on my blog. The same would go for travel books and the like. I generally don’t read fantasy novels, but I recently had a publisher contact me asking if I would like to review a fantasy series. The blurb she sent me sounded really great, so I accepted. It’s all in the blurb! Of course, I’ve been taken out of my comfort zone so the author must please forgive me if I don’t enjoy it.
Q: If authors do interact with you on social media – do you ever think they’re sucking up?
Monique: No. Most of the authors who do interact with me have made contact after a review. I have a lot of followers who are authors and whose books I’ve never read, but they rarely send direct messages.
Bree: No – or at least I really like to think not! I’ve met many authors on twitter and I enjoy chatting to them about books and many other different things. In fact authors on twitter have rarely asked me to review their books. I’ve usually met them through something publisher organised, such as a Q&A or guest post and we continue to interact after that has been completed. Some I’ve begun chatting to them because I like their books – but I hope they don’t see that as me sucking up to them!
Shelleyrae: I wouldn’t make that assumption, no. I am happy to chat with authors, and it quickly becomes obvious when you’re being targeted.
Marcia: Not at all. I’m sure that I’m not the only book blogger who enjoys those types of interactions, and it won’t detract from me giving a slightly less than complimentary review of their novel. After all, authors are also just human and it’s great to see their humanity shine through and realise that they are “real” people.
Q: Can you think of the worst approach anyone has ever made to you, to read their book?
Monique: Not really. A lot of the ones I reject it’s simply because they’re not writing in genres I’m interested in. Oh … I did have a woman approach me at my workplace to ‘review’ her memoir; I stupidly did not say no. It was very long and not very interesting. My diplomatic skills got a workout! She kept emailing me and asking until I sent her a polite “I will contact you when it’s done” email.
Bree: The aforementioned ones where people just send the attachment as a first contact. Ones where people aren’t familiar with your blog and the type of books you’ll review and send you things that just don’t fit (such as Christian fiction, etc).
Shelleyrae: On more than one occassion I have had a ‘request’ that basically just says ‘Read my book’ and gives a link to Amazon – no title, no information and at least once, no name!
Marcia: I don’t think I’ve had one.
Q: You may say on your blog that you aren’t accepting more review requests right now, your TBR list is already through the roof. Is there any way we will ever change your mind?
Monique: Generally, if I made it clear I didn’t want any review requests I’d like that to be respected. I review books out of a love for reading, not for pay, and it has to fit in around all my family and paid work commitments. If I specify a genre I’m not interested in or no self-pub, same deal – I don’t want to read books I’m not interested in; I have too many other things to fit into life. Know your market. Respect it. It’s the same premise as in choosing a publisher, or choosing appropriate media. Would you send a gossip story to a food magazine?
Bree: I always read the emails and if the book sounds like something I really want to read, I’ll look at my schedule and see if I can fit it in. Sometimes I can, more often I really can’t. The best way is probably to request quite a while in advance when I have more flexibility but I know that this isn’t always possible.
Shelleyrae: Only if I have read and positively reviewed something by the author previously, or we have some sort of established relationship.
Marcia: I try my best to accommodate most people (especially if I’ve read their novels before), but there are times (like now) where I am just not able to (I currently have 6 assignments to do before the end of March for my Certificate IV in Frontline Management).
Q: If you a post a review that isn’t complimentary. Do you lose sleep over it?
Monique: See number 2. I’m more likely to lose sleep over the best way to word something.
Bree: It’s hard, because reviews of books I haven’t enjoyed are often the easiest to write but they’re the hardest to post. I do sometimes feel a bit guilty over reviews and I’ve written some in the past that are a bit snarkier than I would write now. However, I also have to be honest and say how I feel. There isn’t a book out there that’s for everyone. And like I’ve said, what didn’t work for me might be exactly what floats someone else’s boat. I know I’ve read negative reviews where people didn’t like something or other and thought to myself, “Yeah, I’m going to read this”.
Shelleyrae: Absolutely! Though I strive to be diplomatic, I believe in being honest about my reaction to the book, and that means pointing out both what did and did not work for me. That can sometimes be uncomfortable, especially if I have a relationship with the author or I know they will see the review.
Marcia: Sometimes! Especially if it’s an author who I have read before and whose writing I have thoroughly enjoyed.
Q: If someone recommends a book to you would you contact the author directly and/or buy the book to review it?
Monique: I’d try the library or buy it. I wouldn’t ask the author directly.
Bree: I don’t contact authors to request copies of their books. If I see something I want to read or someone recommends something to me and it’s not for review anywhere, a lot of the time I’ll buy it. I still buy a huge number of books. If I’m curious but not quite ready to make a purchase I’ll check my local library.
Shelleyrae: I haven’t ever contacted an author directly to ask to review their book, if it was something I really wanted to read I would buy it or borrow it from the library.
Marcia: Yes, I would probably go and buy the novel to read as I’m a bit hesitant to approach the author directly to ask for a copy.
Q: Do you read other reviews of books you’ve reviewed (or are on your list)?
Monique: I do read other reviews at times because I find it interesting to see other’s perspectives on the book. I try not to be swayed by their opinions and form my own – if I don’t love a book, but they do, I try to see what they saw in it that I didn’t. Also, I feel encouraged when another reviewer likes or comments on my review – it’s all about peer support! But, really, I don’t have a huge amount of time to read too many!
Shelleyrae: If I am considering a book for a review but I’m not sure about it, I will sometimes skim the last paragraph of a review by reviewers I trust to help me decide if it would suit me. Generally though I don’t until I have written my own review.
Bree: I try not to read reviews of books I’m about to read. I may skim one to see how a reviewer felt about it (ratings wise) because there are people out there I know that have similar taste to me and if they’ve given it a thumbs up, I might move it up my pile a couple slots. However I really try not to read reviews properly until after I’ve written my own. Sometimes it can’t be helped though – I might read a review and then later on receive the book or buy it or acquire it some other way.
Marcia: Yes, but not before I’ve read the book (in case of spoilers – I hate spoilers)!! I do this to generally get a feel for the book from the other bloggers out there!
Q: Is it hard not to be influenced by other reviews? And who is your favourite reviewer?
Monique: I don’t know who my favourite reviewer is – there are so many good ones out there and each one offers something different.
Bree: Sometimes I feel the same way as others and I may reference them in my review. Other times I’ve written a review only to go and read someone else’s and we’ve discussed similar things and had very similar views! I don’t really have a favourite reviewer as such – I follow a lot of blogs and I tend to rely on different blogs for different things – if I want a really in depth review of a book, or a brief one that will give me a quick idea of whether or not it’s for me, etc.
Shelleyrae: I don’t think I am influenced by other reviews, my opinion is just that – my opinion but I have read reviews, after mine has been posted, which has made me think of some aspects of the novel in a different way. As to my favourite reviewer I have many, including the wonderful people who contributed to this post, but I like variety and follow a few hundred book bloggers via RSS.
Marcia: Like I said earlier, reading is extremely subjective, so no, I find that I’m not easily influenced by other reviews. After all, my review is my own opinion about the book. As for my favourite reviewer? Well, I have two! Shelleyrae from Book’dout and Monique from Write Note Reviews. Their reviews are always so insightful and well balanced.
Thank you ladies for having this chat! I’ve really enjoyed it!