Confessions of a (Non-Professional) Book Reviewer

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

So you’ve got a book! 

You can’t believe your eyes but there it is in your sweaty hands! And whether you’ve gone the indie route, a trade publisher, or somewhere in between, you’re already dreaming about book reviews. More to the point, you’re wondering how to get ‘em. 

So I thought I’d share an insider look at the non-professional book reviewer: your friends, family, and more importantly, your writer friends. Maybe if you know why I do book reviews, you can use that info to get your book reviews! 

Because You Asked 

By far, I write book reviews because the author has asked me. But to be clear, I’m referring to a personal ask, though not necessarily from close, personal friends. 

As a writer who’s involved in several writing organizations and networks, I know a lot of published writers. But surprisingly, very few of them will ask me to write a book review. The majority of newly published authors will blast their news out on social media and ask politely for those who read their book to leave a review. And that’s certainly a time-saving technique but it rarely pushes me from “Congrats!” to the actual writing of a book review. I truly am thrilled for writer friends who get published, but by the time I’ve scrolled through all the updates on social media, I’ve already moved on to whatever’s next on my To Do List. 

BUT if a published friend sends me an email or connects with me at an event or heck, bumps into me at the grocery store and tells me all about the latest published book and offers to send me an ARC or a PDF and asks me personally would I please consider writing a review? Chances are excellent that I’ll write that review if the author friend follows through and sends the book in some form.

Because I’ve Bought Your Book

Again, I have lots of friends who get books published. I can’t afford to buy every friend’s book but those writer friends whom I’ve walked a long journey with, shared umpteen lunches, or even those I’ve never met in person but have a strong connection with, I’m going to buy their book. Perhaps especially if they’ve been pubbed by a smaller publisher or self-pubbed. And as I know how important book reviews are, I’m going to review the book. 

On a side note, close friends will often want to give me their book. I can’t speak for all, but I’d rather they save their give-away books for other opportunities. And I don’t mind one bit if I get a nudge about a book review from these good friends. This goes back to the personal ask; follow through is imperative! 

Because I’ve Won a Book

I’ll participate in a book giveaway if there’s a connection with the author and I want to read the book (and as a bonus, win a signed copy). But these are generally not personal friends; they’re often writers I met somewhere along the way, at a writer’s retreat or other event. In fact, I don’t participate in close friends’ book giveaways because I want that book to go out in the world. But if I do win a book and the author signs it and sends it, the least I can do is write a book review. Every time. 

Because I’m Participating In a Book Tour 

I participate in book tours because I want to read the book; I usually don’t know the author from Adam. And since authors on book tours are there to generate buzz about their books, they’re not trying to make friends. But you know what? I often find these authors to be super friendly, hard-working people, and though it’s not required to post a book review, I always do. Because I’d want someone to do the same for me if I did a book tour. Which brings me to my final confession… 

I’ve recently written a couple book reviews for friends; one because she asked, and the other, because I bought the book. And both sent me lovely thank you notes when they saw the reviews posted. I appreciate a thank you note even though I don’t respond to them. But if I did, I’d write just three words back: Pay it forward.


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Amen, sister! I don't think that you can possibly say to much about asking someone specific to do this for you. Yes, it takes time. But so does writing the review.

And if I wrote a review for every single book I read, I'd be writing several a week. Not going to happen.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--After reading your post, I thought I should send you a card, in addition to the email thank-you, because you were kind enough to review my book. I looked for your address, didn't find it, but did find an old email from 4 or 5 years ago where you'd won a copy of George R.R. Martin's "Fevre Dream." But did I ever send it?

If not, let me know. (It's a good one--the book you won.) And please email me your address. If I had it, I've lost it.

Now, back to your post. Writers know how important reviews are. Amazon had one up for a couple of weeks (among several others), then took it down. I don't know why. It's one way for a book to spread, reader-wise. I would love to be a beta reader or an early reviewer for your next book, or if you need reviews, I would be glad to help out in that way... because you reviewed for me, I'd like to return the favor...

Cathy C. Hall said...

Exactly, Sue! Book reviewers are basically volunteers and it's like working with any volunteer: when you ask someone directly to do something, you have a better chance at a yes.

And Sioux, I've read Fevre Dream--did you send that? I have to admit that I don't review books by NYT best-selling authors but I really liked it! As for Amazon, who knows? That's why I always put my reviews on Goodreads, too.

And if I ever need a book review, don't worry, you're first on my email list. :-) In the meantime, just pay it forward for the next debut published author you know who needs a review.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Cath ~ So true! I don't review books (only star them) unless someone asks me to, only because I struggle with writing reviews if the book is out of my own genre (say fiction or poetry as opposed to prescriptive nonfiction, CNF, or memoir). I've also been on a kick of listening to audiobooks because the only time I have to "read" is when I'm on the stationary bike for an hour a day and later when I'm cooking dinner. I really wish authors/publishers would come out with an audio copy along with print/e-copies for people like me and visually impaired readers as well. (If I'm being super picky! Lol.) But if a friend comes out with a self-published book, I usually purchase it and review it without them asking because I know it's harder for indies to garner publicity. I totally believe in paying it forward! Being a good literary citizen is what it's all about. These are great tips for authors to consider, Cathy! Great post. :)

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