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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