Tag Archives: review requests

Taking A Moment To Check Myself

A few moments ago I received a message on Goodreads that started out:

I’ve been thinking about messaging you and asking you to check out my book for a few days, but I was quite nervous considering how critical and honest your reviews are. Then, I told myself that I might as well and that every review I read from you had a pretty good and constructive critique, so at least I might learn what to make better next time. The harsh feedback is always what I learn the best from. (Though obviously, I’d still like to think that you would enjoy the book, lol)

And I suppose I could gripe about getting hit up on Goodreads for a review, instead of the request coming through the the process I’ve set up here on the blog. (No, I’ll never pass up  an opportunity to point out how many people don’t follow directions, in the hopes of correcting the trend.) But I almost feel like this wasn’t a formal enough request to warrant it. Or maybe I’m just so distracted by something else in it that I can’t be bothered.

nervous woman-Image by Eleatell from PixabayThe thing that most struck me about this message is the author saying she “was quite nervous considering how critical and honest your reviews areThe harsh feedback…*” Yes, the comment is couched in compliments, but it still really made me stop and think. (For the record, I’m not calling the author in question out in any manner. She neither insulted nor upset me; just caused me to consider her word choice, never a bad thing.)

One would think being honest could never be a unappreciated. But anyone who truly believes that hasn’t spent much time in the book reviewing community while we endlessly debate what should and shouldn’t be included in a review. A large contingent lives by “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”

And critique has it’s place, of course, even harsh critique. But the phrasing, the admittal of nervousness to ask me to review their work is awful close to implying that my reviews come across as overtly critical, as in primarily focusing on the negative. Is this how I come across, I wondered.

I’ve been writing reviews here on the blog, Goodreads, and Amazon for 7+ years. And it’s an unfortunate reality that familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t mean this to suggest I find books, authors, or reviews/reviewers contemptible⍣. But rather, it would be quite easy to have let myself slip into a mental space in which I throw out reviews easily, without giving enough gravity to how they might be received.

Yes, there are all sorts of caveats here. Reviews are for readers, not authors. I’m not obligated to be polite when saying I dislike something. I’m 100% not required to keep my trap shut if I dislike something. I am allowed to be as rude, churlish, and bitchy as I like, etc. etc. etc. But the reality is that that’s not the real me. I am generally one of those people that want their say (will insist on it), but don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

woman-Image by Eleatell from PixabayAnd the comment above makes me wonder if I’ve let myself be a little too laissez faire lately and come across as an angry harridan with nothing positive to say, instead of a considered reviewer that also happens to be honest when she dislikes a book. That’s not the same thing and not the reviewer I want to be. I don’t want authors to be afraid of me or my words.

I hope that isn’t giving myself too much importance. One person being nervous, does not a tyrant make. But this was a good reminder to be mindful of my general mien, not just each individual review. A reviewer can be judged by the whole of their work as easily as any individual piece of it.

Goodreads stats as of 3/30/3021

So far this year, I’m averaging just about an even 3★ rating, which makes sense. I feel like that’s how it should be. Most books I neither love nor hate, and I would hope for a roughly even number of books I do. But if I stop and think of some of the reviews I’ve written recently, I can think of some that I probably could have been more diplomatic in my phrasing. The question is, should I have been? Or does honest vitriol have a place too? Where is the line that allows for that without tripping the reviewer over into bitch territory?

I’d like authors to know they’ll get an honest review from me, but also trust that I won’t be needlessly cruel if their book and I don’t get along. I’ll probably never be bubbly enough, as a person, to be seen as a softball reviewer (and I wouldn’t want to be). I just don’t think I have enough of the fan-girl in me. But I also don’t want to be the reviewer that everyone knows will trash their book for the sheer joy of it. That really isn’t who I am or why I do this. It’s not where my joy comes from!

So, I’m taking this opportunity to recenter, to step back and ensure that I am more thoughtful and considered in my words and reviews from here on out. Maybe it’s not needed and everything was fine to start with. But honestly, can trying being more considerate ever put you in bad stead? (Can you be in bad stead, or only good…hmmm?)

And yes, in case you’re curious, I agreed to read the book in question above and I hope with my whole heart to love it.


*On a complete side note, it’s been my anecdotal experience that this is one of the primary differences between male and female authors seeking reviews. I 100% can’t imagine a male author preceding their review request with an admittal that they are nervous about it.

⍣OK, maybe there is a small, self-aggrandizing subset that I could do without.

How to piss off a book blogger, part III

Pissed Off

OK, I’m not really pissed off. That would be giving random people on the internet too much control over me and my emotional wellbeing. But seriously people, this is just RUDE and why exactly would I want to go out of my way to do a favor for a person who’s sole interaction with me and my blog is rude and dismissive? Can we say shooting yourself in the foot?

I’m talking, of course, about people who, not only can’t be bothered to read a blog’s policies before requesting a review, but don’t even bother to look; who don’t even bother with e-mail but jut pop a spammy comment in the comment section of another book’s review.

Here is an example. It was pulled from here.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 1.26.09 PMThat is just so darned rude! But even Moon, above, did better than the one I received today.  He at least kept it brief and stuck to a review post, as opposed to a permanent page, like Mr. McMillian.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 1.35.51 PM

He posted this as a comment on my permanent review page. As if I want this to be an everlasting fixture of the blog. At least Moon’s will get buried with each new post I write.

Yes, I could delete them, (In fact, see that red spam button in the image above? Yeah, that’s what I pressed for McMillian’s book.) but honestly I think they deserved to be shamed a little. No doubt these authors are as desperate for reviews as everyone else, but unless instructed to by the blogger, this is the 100% wrong way to request one. I don’t know a single blogger who would be happy with this. Plus, am I supposed to buy the book you’re spamming me to review? Because you can’t attach a file to a comment, so how is that supposed to even work?

It may not be a pubic service I’m providing by calling these guys (and others like them) out, but hopefully it will remind them to do better by the people they are soliciting for reviews. No one likes to waste time and believe me, this is a waste of time—mine and the author’s—because if the request is almost guaranteed not to result in a review, writing it is a waste of everyone’s time.

And it’s not just here that I find this sort of thing, though it’s my primary emphasis today. How about this one I received in a Goodreads friend request?

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 1.47.21 PM

I’ll let you guess if I accepted or not…no, of course I didn’t. I answered thus:

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 1.51.14 PM

I can at least give the man credit for being polite in his response, but get the real sense he still didn’t (maybe doesn’t) see the problem. The fact that it’s for charity in no way negates the fact that his solicitation was spam. (Nor does it excuse it.)

I appreciate your honesty and understand that my approach may irritate some.
But I’m trying hard, in my own little way, to help this island (Islay) that is losing population. Half of the book proceeds will support students of its high school on their mission trip to a third world country.
I don’t need the income from the book. It’s a giving-back sort of thing for me.
Hope you understand. Sorry to offend you.

I get it, you send out dozens of review requests and probably have a pretty poor response rate (everyone does) and it can be awful easy to forget that this is in fact a form of professional communication, even with hobby bloggers like myself. It can be easy to fall into an abbreviated, ‘I’ll just throw this one our just in case’ mentality. But let me assure you that, on the receiving end, we feel it and it does not reflect well on you or your book.


I don’t need more than a sentence or two and a linked file in a request email. I don’t need flattery or press releases or extended synopses. It’s all nice, but I don’t think poorly of someone who doesn’t include it, so long as I have the basics. But I do need you to follow the direction, so that your book can travel the appropriate path to my reading list.

In my case, I track the emails. It’s how I list the books that have been sent to me for review requests. That means a blog comment doesn’t even make it onto the list. It simply doesn’t exist in the format I file requests in. So it is 100% ineffective and I would bet I’m not the only blogger with systems like this.

To bring this all around to the beginning though, I’m not even overly concerned at this point with effectiveness (because frankly, if you put so little effort into a request, I don’t care if it works or not) but with the flat out rudeness of it. This is rude and you just plain shouldn’t be rude to me if you want me to read your book.

Related posts:

How to piss off a book blogger, part I

How to piss off a book blogger, part II

Tips for submitting Ebooks to bloggers for review

ID-100207548This is an on-going list of things that help make submitting an ebook for review flow smoothly. I’ll be adding points as they occur to me. It’s written to be specific to me and my blog, but in all likelihood would work for any number of bloggers. I’m trying to focus on specific tasks—the mechanics, so to speak—not the request itself. So I’m going to skip over the obvious be polite/professional, don’t SPAM or harass the reviewer, and other such basic etiquette. The Bookish Brunette and Lindsay Buroker do a good job of breaking that down, if that’s what you’re looking for. This is about the nuts and bolts of getting a book into my hand and a subsequent review on the net.

To start with,

I know this sounds too simple for words and every blogger to ever write a tips and hints page starts with it, but people really don’t do it. In my case, I don’t just assume they don’t, I know they don’t. I set up two email addresses, one labelled 2lazy2readP&P@sadieforsythe.com and the other, further down the page, labelled ereview@sadieforsythe.com. A full 1/3 of the requests I get come to that first email address. Of those that manage to read far enough to spot the trap, many still don’t follow the directions (point #2), so I’m forced to wonder how well they read them. But it’s a start.

I know, I sound like a first grade teacher. But my case makes an excellent example of why this is important. I strive to write an objective review. And, as much as I love meeting authors (and I really, really do), I find that too much conversation upfront impedes my ability to be impartial. This means I’ve set the whole system up so that I don’t actually ‘meet’ authors prior to reading their work. After—great, but not before.

lady-face-angry-mdSo, if you send me a ‘request’ that says ‘write me back if you would like a copy’ (which is me requesting your book, BTW, not you requesting a review) you’ve A) not followed direction and probably annoying me upfront, but more to the point, B) just collapsed my system. Don’t expect a response (not that you’d know that, since you probably didn’t read the policies or you would know better). And…

Under no circumstances write me this email and expect me to comply.

Good afternoon,

I saw your contact on book tweeting service, can you send me more informations about book reviews? Where will you post your review? your blog, amazon, goodreads, Facebook?

this is my new book…

Thank you very much

Looking forward to hear from you

Best Regards

Not only because all of that information has already been provided in the Do it Yourselfpolicies he/she obviously didn’t bother to read (yes, it came to the 2lazy2readP&P address), not to mention it’s listed on Book Tweeting, but also because I get several requests a day, have more books available to me than I can read, and therefore don’t need to work for more. I don’t need to make my case to you, just the opposite in fact. You make my job easier if you wish me to do you a favour, not the other way around. I don’t work for you. In fact, this gets me so riled up I wrote a whole rant on it. I know this really falls under the etiquette umbrella, that I wasn’t going to address, but it’s just so basic it needs repeating. 

I know this really falls under follow directions, but it deserves it’s own point. I ask for a title, synopsis, page length and cover image. I love it when authors include genre classifications too, but I don’t specify it. I ask for this information for a reason. It helps me decide if I’m interested in your book or not, but it also helps me in another way. I use Goodreads to keep track of my TBR list. If you’re book is too new to be on Goodreads I often add it so that I can place it on the appropriate shelf. To do this I need some basic information. Yes, I can search Amazon for this information (this is now acceptable by GR policies) and I do. But having the basics to begin with helps me help you.

man and kindleThis is something I never would have thought of if I wasn’t running an ebook review blog. Think it through. You send me an e-file. I then log it on my TBR list and plonk it onto my Kindle, to be read at some future date. When that time comes, I search my kindle for one of two things, the title or the author’s name. If the file is called something else, god forbid Unkown (of which I have several), I’ll never find it and, therefore never read it. So take that extra second to ensure that the file you attach to your email will show up when searched for.

If you send a Smashword’s coupon include the Smashwords link, not the Amazon one. I see this all of the time. People send me a coupon for one site and then link me to another. It’s usually Amazon. I think authors want me to know it’s available there. I promise, I’ll always look. But the logistics of the problem is that I still end up having to search for the book before I can actually use that handy-dandy coupon you’ve provided me. And as anyone who searches Smashwords regularly knows, their search engine is a bit of a pain. So just providing the link upfront instead of the higher profile Amazon one makes me happy. Honestly, I would prefer no link to a useless link. I’m just saying.

listI have on more than one occasion, received the same book from the same author 2 or 3 times. I’m assuming this isn’t harassment, so much as poor bookkeeping. This wastes everyone’s time. You waste time posting a duplicate email and I waste time trying to log it only to discover I already have it.

If a book is 2nd, 3rd, etc in a series, I will need the previous books. This admittedly runs the risk of my reading/reviewing the first one and not continuing the series to the newest book. If that happens at least you got one review from me. But without the beginning of the series I’m almost guaranteed not to read the book you send me.

I know those first couple reviews are the hardest and most nerve wracking to find, but I’m unlikely to choose to read your book until you have them. The reason is that I’m going to be honest about my thoughts. That means if I disliked the book I’m going to say so. I’m not heartless though. I want to know going in that if I dislike the book and rate it poorly there are enough other reviews to balance everything out. There are a lot of dissenting views out there on the use of acquaintances for reviews. As long as they actually read the book before reviewing it I have no issue with it.

Like I said, this is an on-going list. Expect it to grow. But it’s a start. I’d be really interested in hearing from others. Have I forgotten something, missed something, mangled something? Let me know.