Book Review Etiquette

I did a post once about things authors do that are red flags to reviewers. But something I didn’t mention in that post is the mistakes authors make AFTER contracting with a reviewer. An author sent you their book, you agreed to review it, that should be the end of the interaction. Except sometimes it’s not. 

Here are mistakes authors make AFTER a review process is started. 

Note: This list is by no means exhaustive. They’re simply things I’ve experienced (more than once) and want to bring to your attention so we can all do better. 

  1. Forgetting to tell you the release date changed. This is the ONLY ONE on this list that is a reason you, as the author, should reach out. If your release date changes for any reason, you have to let your reviewers know. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read an ARC, prepped my review, and then found out the release was delayed or canceled altogether. There is literally no point in me posting those reviews because the book isn’t coming out. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. Email the reviewer, ask if they can hold the review until a new release day is announced. TRUST ME, we’ll appreciate the heads up. 
  2. Commenting on reviews with corrections. If you were tagged in a review, there’s a reason. Either you asked to be, the reviewer thought you’d appreciate seeing it, or both. If you were tagged in a review, you can comment to thank the reviewer. You can share the post. What you can’t do is make corrections in the comments. Things like “Well you had an ARC so I told you there might be errors” or “The paperback doesn’t have those problems, only the ebook” or “This all sounds like an opinion” don’t make you look professional. They make you look sketchy. Even following it up with a laughing emoji doesn’t help. As a reviewer if I see an author commenting things like this on their reviews, I block them. I don’t want to ever forget and agree to review for this person. It’s a HUGE problem. Simply don’t do this one. Ever. 
  3. Emailing to ask if we noted errors we mentioned. Out of all the things on this list, this one is the most well-intentioned, I think. I get why authors do this one but still … big no. Let me paint you a picture. You’re a reviewer. You read over 100 books a year. You read all the time in various places where you don’t always have a notepad handy. You read on your phone and kindle in addition to paperbacks. When you’re reading, you find a spelling mistake. You make a quick mental note of it but move on, one mistake isn’t a big deal. Later, you find another one. And another one. Ok, now you’re noticing them and it’s worth mentioning. So you track down a piece of paper and make a note about this book having spelling errors for your review. You notice a few more when it comes time to post the review so you decide, yes, this is worth mentioning. You post the review. A week goes by. You’ve moved onto something else. The author emails you and says something like “Hey, thanks for reviewing. You mentioned spelling mistakes. Do you have those circled or marked so I can fix them?” Um. No, I for sure do not. See, here’s the problem. I was brought into this relationship as a reader/reviewer. The product should have been finished when it got to me. I wasn’t reading it with my editing materials by my side. I’m not a professional editor. I’m a professional reviewer. I read and review. That’s what I did. My job is done. There’s nothing saying I have to go back, find those mistakes again, and supply them to you. That’s literally not my job and, honestly, I don’t want to take the time to cycle back and do that again. I told you there were spelling mistakes. Hire an editor to find them for you. Sorry.
  4. Reaching out before the due date to check on our progress. Obviously this one only applies if you were given a due date. I am intentional about my due dates. I give them (sometimes they’re really far away) and I notate them for myself. I already have a packed schedule and often feel really guilty about how long you have to wait. But what doesn’t speed me up is you reaching out and asking how I’m enjoying the book. Likely, I haven’t started it yet if I agreed to post a review in three months. I’ve had people send me updates like “please don’t forget to post a review for that copy I sent you”. I know, I won’t! If the due date passes (or gets close) and you’ve heard nothing, that’s different. 
  5. Commenting about my reading habits on other posts. In general, avoid commenting on reviewers posts in any way that may come across as negative. I’ve had people comment on traditional book reviews of backlist titles with something like “I guess this is why it takes so long for you to review mine, lol”. Unless your book is available in all formats (including audiobook) you literally cannot possibly know if your book had to “wait in line” behind this one. I will always read what I want to read. Always. There’s a method to what I do and I absolutely loathe answering questions about that delivered in a patronizing way. 

So what can you do?

I don’t want to be all THINGS TO AVOID here. So here are some tips for authors who are working with a reviewer. 

  1. Ask for a due date. This will obviously help you with number 4 on the above list. If you know when to expect it, you can relax until then. Actually, even better …
  2. Forget about it. It’ll happen when it happens. Let it be a pleasant surprise. You did your job, you sent the book. Now just move on with your life. But what if they don’t review? Look, if you have to pressure them to review it you’re probably not going to like what they say anyway. Make a note not to send them another book and move on. 
  3. Check what kind of things they review ahead of time. As in, BEFORE sending them a review request. If you are going to be annoyed when they review backlist traditional titles, don’t ask them to review yours. If you are going to be annoyed when they review ARCs or adult books or children’s books, don’t request a review. If you don’t like their content, don’t ask them to feature yours. 
  4. Keep your comments friendly or generic. Tap the like button. “Thanks for reviewing.” “I’m glad you liked it.” If you were tagged, share the post. That’s it. Save the ranting and raving for the real world … OFF social media. 
  5. Don’t read the reviews. They’re honestly not for you. They’re for readers. You contracted the review because reviews help you reach readers. Let them do that. This is the best piece of advice I can give to writers who struggle with taking reviews personally. Stop reading them. Seriously. No one will even know you didn’t read them and you’ll feel better. 

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