Authors asking for reviews: the readers speak out. (And, FYI, they HATE Goodreads.)

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So I conducted a highly scientific informal poll of my Tymber’s Trybe and Facebook peeps yesterday. (And a HUGE thank you to everyone who chimed in with their opinions.) The subject was asking about authors requesting reviews from readers. Which led to a side question to the Trybe peeps only about Goodreads and GR groups.

First, the easy one: nearly to a person, everyone who responded to the Goodreads question said they hated Goodreads, and IF they used it at all, it was only to keep track of books they’d read, post their reviews, or keep track of new books coming out, but that they didn’t like or use the groups and mostly stayed out of them because of bullies and drama.

Sooo…wow. It was fairly emphatic and across the board, too. Goodreads has a horrible rep still apparently. Not that that was any shocker to me, but still, to hear so many readers emphatically saying pretty much the same things in the same space was fairly eye-opening.

Are you listening, Amazon? Your step-child site still has a massive PR problem. The bottom line on that question being no, I will not be resurrecting a reader’s group on GR. I’ll be sticking with the one I have now on Facebook.

Anyhoo. The main question I’d asked was to get readers’ opinions on how/when/if a writer can/should request reviews from their readers. (I’m talking reader reviews, not review-site reviews.) This cropped up because a couple of writer friends and I were noodling over the question privately, and I decided instead of us just bouncing ideas around inside the bell jar, why not go to the source and actually ask my peeps. They don’t bite (unless I ask really nicely).

I don’t like heavy-handed sales tactics. I don’t like using them, and I don’t like being on the receiving end of them. The easiest way to “sell” me something is just be nice and be friendly and be yourself. I’ve bought more books from “friends” because they were my friends, or because they were people I liked for who they were, not because they shoved the book in my face a thousand times and asked me to buy it.

Obviously, my writer friends and I all agreed with the given, that paying for reviews is, frankly, bullshit and dishonest. (And readers expressed that same opinion, that they think it’s bullshit for writers to buy reviews. They also, surprisingly, expressed that they trust Amazon reviews less and less now than they used to, because they are fully aware of the fact that some authors buy reviews.)

And let me be frank that I went into this discussion telling my readers that, as a writer, I do NOT “expect” reviews, that I consider the point from when I write the book to when my reader legally obtains that book to be the COMPLETE sum of things. Done. That anything beyond that is their choice, and if they do decide to leave a review or pimp my book, it’s greatly appreciated by me and not “expected” by me. I know I’ve seen plenty of readers who gripe about being bombarded by graphics and requests, mostly by indie and self-pubbed writers, about leaving reviews, pimping books, etc, to the point that it turns them off.

So again, just to be clear, I DO NOT EXPECT ANYTHING OF MY READERS OTHER THAN THEY LEGALLY OBTAIN MY BOOKS. PERIOD. Full stop.

That said, my reader peeps enlightened me about a variety of viewpoints.

(For those who don’t know, ARC means Advanced Reader Copy, and is a holdover term from traditional publishing when book galley proofs were sometimes sent out months in advance of a release date so that reviews could be ready upon the book’s release. Now the term basically means a copy the author has handed out for a review.)

  • Readers usually don’t mind if authors occasionally remind them about leaving reviews. As in, maybe every couple of weeks, or once a month or so, or when a new release comes out, etc.
  • Readers absolutely do not like being pressured (as a general reader, when they haven’t agreed to do an ARC review) to leave a review immediately on the day of release (because, yes, like writers, readers DO have real-life lives to deal with).
  • Readers mostly don’t like “contests” where you have to leave reviews to get entered.
  • Readers don’t like it when authors whine and bitch about NOT getting reviews, or trying to guilt-trip readers into leaving reviews.
  • Readers don’t like hard-sell, heavy-handed GO REVIEW kinds of tactics.
  • Readers, for the most part, don’t see anything wrong with authors giving away ARCs in exchange for HONEST reviews (positive or critical).
  • Readers don’t like anything remotely approaching authors wanting ONLY positive reviews versus HONEST reviews (positive or critical).
  • Readers do understand if an author makes a time frame part of an ARC giveaway (as in to have new reviews ready for the day of release) but they also don’t like to be blasted by same-said author if real life gets in the way and they can’t leave the review in time (or if they end up leaving a critical review and getting blasted for that). But they also understood that if a writer is giving away ARCs ahead of a release date with the expectation that the reviewers will review the book in return, and they aren’t getting reviews in return, why a writer would then not use those particular ARC reviewers again.
  • Quite a few readers expressed the opinion that they didn’t feel they were “good” review writers because they weren’t writers and didn’t know what to say beyond, “I really liked this book.” (To those readers, I honestly can tell you, that’s FINE, we writers appreciate you simply taking the time to write any kind of review.)
  • Readers are trusting reviews they see on Amazon less and less, because they know there are writers who buy reviews.
  • Readers HATE it if an author pays for reviews. (FYI, Amazon filed suit recently against a company selling reviews, soo…I wouldn’t do it, if I were you.)
  • Readers understand it’s difficult for writers to know who to trust anymore because of rampant file sharing and piracy, and they understand why writers are far less trusting now than they were even a few years ago with handing out ARCs to readers.
  • Readers might not review a book, but if they like it they’ll pimp it and the author out to their friends.

The reason I’d asked this is because I’d been wondering about seeing new books popping up on the ‘Zon, where they might have less than 500 likes on their author Facebook page, it’s only their first or second book, yet within a day or two of release they have several dozen reviews already posted on the ‘Zon. I’m not talking A-list authors who sneeze and get a few dozen reviews, and I’m not talking BookBub newsletter specials, either. I’m talking new/unknown writers. (Yes, very suspicious, in my book, especially when so many of the reviews have nearly identical wording in them.)

I think the answer (beyond readers’ vehement dislike of Goodreads) that surprised me the most was how little people trust Amazon reviews now. I’m talking they actively distrust them. Several people voiced that opinion. They are more likely to trust recommendations by friends than Amazon reviews.

And yes, my question to my peeps had more to do with the ‘Zon than anywhere else, because I have far more ratings and reviews on Goodreads than I do on sales outlets, and that seems par for the course for many authors, not just myself.

But I hate haaaate HAAAATE “begging” for reviews, because as a reader, I hate it when authors do that to ME. So I wasn’t sure what the generally accepted line was. And I’m fully aware that MY particular tolerance level may very well be different than the “average” reader’s tolerance level when they aren’t a writer. I know there are plenty of readers who don’t mind when authors ask for reviews, so I wanted outside opinions, especially when I had writer friends wondering the same thing.

There you have it, authors. Do with this information what you will, but it was definitely an eye-opener for me in many ways. Yes, it’s okay to ask–nicely–on occasion for reviews, but do NOT pressure your readers about it. Readers are pretty forgiving for the most part, but if they feel you’re trying to pressure them, or put expectations on them they don’t feel are legitimate, they will dump you in a heartbeat because there are plenty of other authors out there competing for their eyeballs and pocketbooks.

And to my peeps who responded–THANK YOU. I greatly appreciate it. Also, believe me, I do greatly appreciate reviews.

As a reader, what do you think about this? As a writer, does this give you any insights? Feel free to sound off in the comments about it and keep the discussion going.

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22 thoughts on “Authors asking for reviews: the readers speak out. (And, FYI, they HATE Goodreads.)

  1. When can I acquire (legally) books 7-10 of the Drunk Monkeys Saga, please? I’m hanging on eleventerhooks here.

  2. I somehow missed the Trybe talk yesterday, shame on me, but I will chime in here. I’m a blogger, a PA for multiple authors, and a sometimes event host for blog tours etc. BUT I’m a reader first and foremost. I started my blog because I wanted to share my love of books. I write reviews mostly because my friends don’t read what I do so it’s the only way I can talk about them.

    I consider begging for reviews an author behaving badly. Now, when a book is first released and they are advertising the book, to add a “Love to know what you thought, leave a review” or something of the sort is fine. But to make posts that I have no reviews help me !!! That makes me roll my eyes and not want to even read the book.

    I do feel that if an author provides and ARC that a review should be done, not because the author has asked for it, but as a reader it is a thank you for giving me the chance to read it first. If the author is kind enough to provide me a copy then my review is a way to show my appreciation for that honor.

    I don’t think authors should ever pressure anyone for a positive review. In fact, in most cases if a book has all positive reviews, I don’t trust that the reviews are in fact honest. There is always someone that doesn’t like a book. I buy 90% of the books I read BECAUSE of the negative reviews. Which is something a lot of readers do, so authors should really consider that when they are all up in arms about someone bringing down their average rating.

    • @Miranda – I’ll admit I’m one who will look at critical reviews as well to see what’s up, what’s the balance. I’m glad I”m not the only one who does that. LOL

  3. I am one of those readers who rarely believes reviews because of the “professional writing” behind them. I look more for reader reviews. When I see the professional ones I can’t help but wonder. They don’t buy the books (do they?), and they read so many. I have several things that take up my time (but not a paid job) and my reading suffers for being a creative person, so it sometimes takes me a couple of weeks to read one of your books. I don’t like audio books because I have been disappointed that the voice in the audio doesn’t match the voice in my head when I’ve read a book. Also, I can’t imagine just reading, and reading, and reading, just to provide a review. I do promise from now on to leave a written review when I read one of your books, though.

    • @Terri – Aw, thank you! (For the reviews, I mean. And for reading! LOL) I understand real life gets in the way, believe me. And as I said, I do NOT have any expectations on my readers to leave reviews. I truly appreciate them, yes, but beyond my readers legally obtaining my work should they choose to read my books, that’s it. Anything else I’m extremely grateful for and appreciate.

  4. I wrote a post on Facebook last Sunday about being bummed because my reviews weren’t what I’d hoped for. But that wasn’t the point of my post. The point was the self-realization that I had ventured into a sub-genre that I never had before and I could improve with what I’ve learned. I’m hoping people took it that way.
    I only look at Amazon reviews to see if someone is complaining about a cliffhanger ending. Some authors, like you, know how to do serials well, while others do not.

    • @Tracey – I will admit, I’m a “spoiler reader.” I do this with movies, too. Before I invest time/money I want to make sure that I’m getting something I know I’m going to enjoy. I’ve been burned too many times, and I’m too jaded, and I have not enough free time or extra spending cash to just toss it at something I don’t even know if I’ll enjoy. So I’m choosey.

  5. I think I’m the only one who loves Goodreads. O_o It could be because I really only actively participate in one group. And I post all my reviews on GR. Out of the 4000+ book reviews I’ve posted, I’ve only had 3 which were trolled. Two were by the same guy who trolls readers of BDSM frequently. One was by an angry author’s friend.

    I’m luckily not involved in any of the drama. Every author (except 1) I’ve interacted with have been gracious. I hope the trend continues. I feel bad sometimes because I’m so slow lately with work responsibilities that my reviews are later than they should be.

    I am always happy to have authors request reviews as long as they agree to my review policy. (Dear Author’s Jane provided some guidance to keep me out of hot water.) I have to say, I trust GR’s reviews from my friends much more than anything on Amazon. I don’t read a single review on Amazon. I post them at the author’s request.

    I’d like to point out that authors may hesitant to ask for reviews. Know that readers are also afraid and hesitant to request for a book to review.

    As a totally side note. Those who are very active in GR, at least the group I’m in, they hate Facebook. They won’t use it.

    • @La Crimson Femme – The overwhelming opinion was the problem with Goodreads is the “bullies.” Authors AND readers. Too much drama. If they took away the “social” aspect of it, did away with the groups, I suspect a lot of people would actually use it. The repeated point was usually a statement like, “I only use it to keep track of my books and leave reviews. That’s it.” So it’s not that GR itself is “broken,” but it’s allowed a culture to flourish there, rightly or wrongly, that has given it such a bad name that so many people do not want to even venture into the more social aspects of it.

      • @ Tymber. Yes, there are some vocal bullies. I think in my instance, it’s a bit different because the group I’m in, it’s one of the few places people can learn about the lifestyle through educational posts, ask questions, share their experience and not be judged. They can do this all without revealing their real life name.

        Yes, there is fetlife. However, there are problems with that place too with unsolicited hook ups.

        Facebook is not an option for many in the social group I’m in on GR because most of the people in the group do not go by their real names. With more and more morality clauses at work, being outed and the possibility of having real life ramifications just for asking or reading BDSM is too scary for many. Which is why I believe GR can provide a social haven for those who need it.

        The downside of the “anonymity” are the bullies. 🙁 Well, to each their own. Wherever they are happy and enjoying, that’s where they should stay and remain.

  6. Great article! Thanks for confirming my personal “ick factor” gauge for determining if I should do something or not, to promote my books.
    If it offends/annoys me when someone else does it, don’t do it myself. Duh, right?

    • @Anne – Exactly my point/problem. LOL But I know my personal tolerance to some things might not be the norm or the acceptable standard. It was a relief to hear readers say they didn’t mind the occasional reminder to leave reviews, or the chance to review an ARC, and confirm my more “ick” factor views that I’m glad I never went down that path.

      • I agree, the occasional request doesn’t bother me, and I always review if I can. I’ve done multiple crowdfunding projects and try to be respectful in my ask, and appreciative of my support. It’s worked out well, and I try to follow my gut instinct on whether an approach is right or not.

  7. I do not understand Goodreads. Every time I sign on I get confused again. I did use it for a while during the BBA era and I found the people who spoke out against bought reviews and authors who ‘lost it’ became every bit as angry and confrontational as the authors they criticized
    I will sometimes read reviews for the comedy factor, especially when someone complains about m/m romance when the cover is two attractive men standing close together. Or the review complaining about ‘too many horses’ when the entire cover is a horse. yes, I’m suspicious of so many five star well written reviews especially when the same people gush over every book by this author
    I write. My publisher sends out the ARC for reviews, and I’ll do the same. If someone privately sends me a critique of my book I ask if they would like to put that on Amazon. That’s about the extent of my push. There seems to be an air of desperation to the statements of “another 5* review!!!!”

    • @MonaKarel – Goodreads started out great and became a Wild West in short order, unfortunately. And got worse from there. And they didn’t DO anything to correct the problem, which snowballed.

      Yes, I do laugh when I see a review about a clearly labelled genre book (MM or BDSM or whatever) and the review complains about it being MM or BDSM. (I’m talking ones that are clearly labelled, and even if they weren’t, simply looking at the genre they’re being sold in easily tell a reader what they are.)

      What’s funnier (and this has happened to me) is to have one review say that a book has too much sex…and then another review saying that the book doesn’t have enough sex in it–for the SAME book. Those always crack me up and goes to show you cannot please everyone. LOL

  8. I will write a completely honest review when I feel a book or author warrants it. I will not read any book that requires a review either. I read because I enjoy reading. Forcing someone to write a review takes the enjoyment from it. I will never leave a false positive review of a book that isn’t good. I don’t believe that helps anyone…writer or potential reader. If I don’t like a book, I explain why. On public sites I keep everything respectful. On my private pages and blog, that is a different story. My followers want my true thoughts without the candy coated shell. I recommend books if I feel it’s something someone will want to read. Even if I didn’t like it. I don’t pay attention to what others write as a review either. I have a totally different standard in my rating system than most do. Mostly because I am personal friends with a few writers and I see all the behind the scenes activities going into it. I understand most don’t have that. Pimping out, recommending, and reviews are done on my terms. Not the authors. I’m spending my money, dedicating my time to read. Many authors (including A-list) don’t get that concept.

    As for Amazon and Goodreads, I use both. But again, under my terms. I don’t involve myself with the politics and other crap the sites allow. Authors shouldn’t pay attention to most people who are extremely negative either. But that’s my opinion.

  9. I think there are good groups on GR, but they have to be actively moderated (as in daily). That becomes a full-time occupation. There are too many bullies on there. I do still leave some reviews on GR, but mostly I review on my blog. I’ll sometimes port those to GR or Amazon or both…but the last year or so, that is more rare. I’ll do the star rating at GR because it’s easy and convenient for me.

  10. I do not use GR and rarely review a book. I also do not always trust really bad reviews as people want to ‘go on’ about the ‘evilness’ of the book sometimes rather than the book itself. I have heard of groups targeting particular authors/genre etc and I am so over that. If people don’t like the subject matter read something else but do not try to influence my choices. I have received emails from authors offering a competition for the opportunity for ARC’s in return for reviews but I usually do not engage as life is busy and I can not guarantee a review by the release date. I usually do not want to give bad reviews either as I know there is no way that ‘everyone’ is going to like the same book. Thanks again for the discussion, Tymber.

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