Red Flags for Authors

Yesterday I posted about red flags book reviewers may encounter that would warn them away from working with an author. Well, that’s only one side of this relationship. In my experience, not every reviewer is one you’d want to work with either. In general, the relationship between potential reviewers and authors is amazing and healthy. But, in the years that I’ve been doing this I’ve unfortunately found a bunch of red flags. I’m sharing this to HELP you — whatever side of the relationship you may be on. Ask questions if you have them but know that I absolutely won’t name and shame anyone. 

Today’s side of the discussion, red flags for authors 

You’re an author. You have a book available for sale, perhaps you published it on your own or with a small press. You’re looking to find reviewers who will read it and give you an honest review.

But what should you look out for when vetting possible reviewers?

They don’t read your genre. 

  • This is a big one and one that often gets overlooked. You might like some of the same books as this reviewer and you might like how they post their reviews. But if they aren’t reading in your genre, they aren’t the audience for your book. Take a look at any lists they have about what they review and honor that. 

They want all your books at once. 

  • This is NEVER a good idea for either half of the relationship. Think about it, if they know after one book they don’t like your voice, they’re probably not going to like the rest of your collection. Offer one book. If they like what they read and you like the way they reviewed, you could always approach them again with another title at a later date. If a reviewer asks for multiple at once, I’d pass. I’ve made that mistake before. It either resulted in multiple reviews that were clearly disappointed or in a waste of money because only one actually got reviewed. 

They want you to pay them. 

  • Pass. It can be tempting, especially if reviews have slowed to a trickle and you want eyes on the book. But pass. Oftentimes these reviews are not genuine because you were paying for that opinion, which clearly clouds the judgment. 

You can’t find reviews for them on platforms you are on. 

  • I’ve found quite a few reviewers over the years who have their own websites where they review (which is great) but I can never find their reviews anywhere else. They don’t appear to have a social media presence and I can’t find their corresponding reviews for titles on Amazon or Goodreads. In short, no matter how good their review is, how will potential readers find it? You’re better off to stick with reviewers you’ve seen somewhere. 

Their reviews all sound the same. 

  • It took me a while to notice this one on a few reviewers, but it’s worth noting. If you happen to spy a reviewer on social media, for example, who always repeats a phrase like “look at this gorgeous cover” for every book they review, be wary. This kind of thing can be a sign that they’re not really reading the book. As nice as it would be to assume they merely love every cover they buy, it’s usually an indicator that they are recycling comments because they can’t think of what else to say. 

There’s no scale for star ratings. 

  • Even a basic scale is fine. No scale can be a red flag. What constitutes 3 stars vs 4 stars, for example? It’s nice to work with reviewers who have some idea of how that will work for them, even though reviews are subjective and it’s not always easy to stick with it. 

They want copies you weren’t prepared/able to send. 

  • Or they want them sent to places you weren’t prepared/able to send them. It isn’t always possible to ship a hardcover to a foreign country. An audiobook isn’t always available. Yes, that might mean having to pass on a reviewer who otherwise seemed perfect, but don’t feel bad about passing on these. Another one will come up. That being said, have some copy you are prepared to provide for free to every reviewer, even if it’s an ebook. 

Their reviews attack more than rate. 

  • This can be a hard one to spot because most reviewers won’t put these on a website. I have found a few who drop secondary comments on their reviews on popular sites, like Goodreads, attacking authors. The review itself sounded fine, it’s the secondary comment that is unprofessional. If you aren’t looking at those, you might miss something uncomfortable. It’s worth a quick check. 

They seem pushy or make you uncomfortable in any way. 

  • If they’re asking for things that you weren’t expecting or if they make you feel weird about the whole transaction, pass. There are other reviewers out there. 

They have no timeline ideas. 

  • Careful, I didn’t say they plan to take too long. I said they have no idea how long it will take or when they’ll get to it. Reviewers have a VERY FULL schedule. However, most of the reviewers I’ve worked with have provided me with a rough idea (even if it is really far out). All the ones I sent copies to just to never see a review for were reviewers who didn’t give me a timeline. Do with that information what you will. However, I will say that I NEVER reach back out to a reviewer. Once I send that copy along, my part is done unless they want to loop me back in. I would NEVER advise sending an email to ask how the review is coming or why they didn’t post it (whether they gave a timeline or not). 

They want to do a review exchange.

  • I covered this yesterday but I’ll mention it again for this side. Don’t do this. It facilitates an uncomfortable relationship where it is very difficult to remain genuine. One or both parties will feel cheated or slighted. Unless, of course, you already know the author and have a relationship. Then I’d say it’s up to you. 

Quick Tips for Finding/Avoiding Red Flags:

  • Check for websites/procedures for submitting reviews (mine is under Book Reviews on my website, for reference). Read the whole thing. 
  • Check for that reviewer on your preferred review or social media platform. Does it look professional? 
  • Reach out using the method they requested you use, whatever that may be. Have information about the book ready and on hand for answering questions (title, genre, page count, links to review sites, formats available for reviewers, and retail cost of the book are popular questions). 
  • If you’re ever uncomfortable, pass!

One last thing: as it was with the reviewer post yesterday, if you are ever uncomfortable with an exchange don’t hesitate to use that block button. If you feel like an attack has turned personal and your safety is at risk, don’t hesitate to involve law enforcement. Again, I’ve never had an issue the block feature couldn’t solve, but it’s always a possibility to be aware of. 

Are you an author? Are there any red flags I missed? Let me know in the comments. 

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