This summer I have had conversations with several authors about the review process, timetable, and information on what authors should include in the initial email asking for a review. Finally, an author asked me if I could write a post about the whole process.
After considering this for a while, here are my thoughts, from my perspective, with the experiences I have had. I'm not pretending to speak for any or all other book reviewers out there, but this is what I have learned in the past two years I have been 'a professional book reviewer'. It’s a list of things I would like authors to know.
What I would like authors to know #1. When should you ask for the review?
I often get emails asking for a review of a book that came out two weeks ago. They need the review RIGHT NOW. That almost always doesn’t work for me or my schedule. I prefer to work with authors who are organized and give me plenty of time to read and write my review. My blog schedule generally fills up 2-3 months ahead of time.
When should you send out a request for a review? As soon as you have your book available to send.
What I would like authors to know #2: If I’ve liked you before, I’ll probably be glad to read and review you again.
As an author, if you see on Goodreads or another review site that a reviewer has read your book one in a series and liked it, most likely they would love to read more of the series as well. This is your easy sell for a review. To contact them and say "I saw that you liked so and so, would you be interested read more of the series?..." And in some cases, you might be able to arrange the reviews of the two or three following books in the series.
What I would like authors to know #3: Reviews of books I don’t like
Since a review is always a personal opinion of a story, this is bound to happen if you have a large readership, and it should be okay. Because the lower scored reviews matter, they make your better reviews more reliable, and they sell books.
When I go to buy a book written by a new author to me, I look at the reviews first. Always. The % of good and bad and the ugly. Then I read the bad reviews. Is there a consistency to them or are the issues just personal to the reader? Are the issues something that I could live with, are the issues important to me?
Yes, many authors wish that we never post reviews anything under 3,5 spoons/stars whatever we are handing out, but I promise you, I would never buy a book with 200 glowing reviews and not one negative opinion on the book. And a lot of readers are like that.
Why? Because readers are humans and we rarely agree on everything. I run to the stories that make the readers think enough to get diverse of opinions.
On the other hand, the not so glowing reviews are hard to write. At least for me. They take the most time, and I keep rewriting them, looking at the notes, trying to find something positive and glowing to say about the book, because there's always something that was good, and I try to keep going at it until I find it.
What I would like authors to know #4: I have a target audience too, and it isn’t you
I don't write my reviews to the authors, no, I write them to the readers. I write them so they will know what I thought about the story, and maybe that could help them make a decision if they are going to invest their money and time on the title. I try to focus on things that I would want to know as a reader in order to know whether to buy a book.
What I would like authors to know #5: I don’t read everything under the sun!
And because it takes so much out of me to write a 'bad review' (really, you can ask my close friends they can tell stories), I am rather picky with what I choose to read.
I have stated clearly on the Books & Spoons ABOUT page what kind of books I like, to great detail.
Here’s exactly what I have posted:
“I love to read romantic suspense and military novels with happy endings,
no cliffhangers, and no third person drama/cheating issues, no 1st person POV.
In my romantic suspense, I enjoy fast, intense action, with alpha males and independent and strong women, who are willing and able to fall in love.
I don't read historical, science fiction, or paranormal romance books, and rarely have I enjoyed the Young Adult genre either.
They say life is too short to read books you don't like, and as I like to make the most of my life, I'll stick to those I know I'll find enjoyable and entertaining.”
So you can imagine my feelings when an author sent me a request to review his
“historical, young adult novel with paranormal elements”. True story.
Really? Why should I do you this service when you didn’t even respect me enough to look through what I do or don’t read.
What I would like authors to know #6: You want to thank me? Share my review!
To create a review post on the website is a labor of love and I put a lot of time into it. I want it to be something I can be proud of, something that people would want to like and share on social media. And that takes time. Time, I want to invest, obviously, since I started the website, but a time I want to be wisely used.
I don't get compensated for my reviews, I'm only provided a free eARC or an emailed advance copy of the book. And that's great. There's a possibility that my website could bring a modest income one day via ads, and that would be great as well. But to do that, it needs visibility on social media, on search engines, and on bookseller lists. I would say if you want to thank a reviewer, the best you can do is share their post of your book's review.
What I would like authors to know #7: Social Media Stuff
Facebook changed rules again at the end of June. Now the newsfeed is more about what our friends are doing, and if they are not actively following a page with notifications, there's even smaller percentage of followers seeing the posts unless there's action there with shares and likes.
On twitter, the heart used to be 'saved', it doesn't actually mean anything to the visibility of the post to 'heart' it, you are just saving it to your specific folder on your page. You want it to be seen - you RT it to your followers.
On Instagram, the # world is what matters. I am a newbie there, and still working on the best choices, but even if you have just a few followers, with the right # your image can go far and wide. Also if you heart a post, your followers can see it if they do a search, adding on to the visibility.
On Pinterest, I literally have only a couple handfuls of followers, but the stats tells me week after week that the images are being seen by thousands via ads on similar pictures and accounts Pinterest itself is running.
To get visibility on the seller's pages also requires likes, if someone posts a review of your book on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Goodreads, iBooks, where ever books are sold or talked about, and you want the possible buyers to see them, go and like them. The more reviews, and likes those reviews have, more likely it is to end up being recommended by Amazon, or other pages, to other readers buying in the same genre.
I hope this information is helpful and useful to the authors out there wondering about review requests. Like said, I am talking from my own experience, but with over two years of observation, I don't think my experience or routines are that far from the norm.
MY GRADING SCALE:
5 Spoons - Amazing, memorable story that I loved and want to read again. The best of the best and not given lightly
4 Spoons - Fantastic, entertaining story that I enjoyed and connected with and will gladly recommend to readers
3 Spoons - A good story, not much that stood out but I was engaged enough to spend the time to read it through
2 Spoons - A story with some issues, that were a problem to me
1 Spoon - Not for me