When I started The Secret Lives of Writers series, I was approached by Alex Kourvo from Writing Slices (check the comments at the bottom of this post) to see if I’d submit it for a book review. Of course, I was overjoyed that someone was keen to review it, and I submitted it when it was ready—with very little thought, I might add!
A month or so later, I was duly advised by Alex that her review of The Secret Lives of Writers would be negative. She gave me the option of not going ahead with the review (she said she had a soft spot for indie authors), but I told her to publish it. I was intrigued—what did she read that she didn’t like?
Well, as it turned out, plenty. But it didn’t bother me. Reading is a very subjective experience and what one person hates, another person loves for exactly the same reason. Interestingly, Steve Pressfield (of No one wants to read your shit fame), Steve Scott (Habit Stacking) and Scott Stratten (Unmarketing) all received a negative review, so I’m in fine company!
However, I did want to thank Alex for taking the time to read the book and write the review, so I left a comment on her blog. I went back the next day to check on replies only to find that my comment had been deleted. Apparently, she has a comments policy where she deletes comments from authors because it “makes for an uncomfortable atmosphere”. Uncomfortable for whom? I’m uncomfortable because my comment was deleted and I’m sure people are probably wondering what I said. Now I looked like a dufus!
For the record, here is my comment:
Thank you for reviewing my book, Alex. I’m sorry you didn’t find it as inspiring as you had hoped. Interestingly, the reviews on Amazon have been very positive! Just goes to show that reading is subjective… as are critiques of covers 😉
Look, I get that it’s her blog and her rules, but having my comment deleted really irked me. How come she can say what she likes and I’m not allowed to respond? Why was I not informed that I didn’t have right of reply, even out of courtesy? Gah! The injustice of it all!
(And if by chance you stop by to make a comment on this post Alex—either negative OR positive, I will not unpublish or delete it.)
So, given that I’m all about education and lessons and such, here are my three takeaways from this experience.
Lesson #1: Do your homework
And by doing your homework, I mean find out as much as you can about the reviewer. Do they write, and are they published, and if they are, in which genre? What kinds of books do they review? Check out their website, if they have one. Find them on Twitter, Amazon and GoodReads. Check out their Facebook and their Instagram accounts. Follow them on Quora. You want to find out as much as you can about this person. After all, you wouldn’t just hand your children over to someone you didn’t know, would you? No, I didn’t think so. Your books are your babies, so you shouldn’t just hand them out to strangers willy-nilly, either! Readers choosing to read your book is a different matter, of course.
Lesson #2: Read the other reviews
Reviewers generally tend to post their reviews to their websites, so read their reviews goddammit! Read lots of their reviews. See if you can find a tone… are the reviews snarky or kind? How do the reviews position the reviewer and the writer (and by that, I mean in terms of power, voice and authority)? Is the reviewer looking to promote themselves as an authority at the expense of the writer? If books have been reviewed that you are familiar with, did you agree with the review? Did you think the review was fair? The reviews themselves will give you a good idea of how your book will be treated and you can make an educated decision about whether you want to submit it or not.
Lesson #3: Read the comments
My mistake was that I didn’t read the comments policy on this particular review site, but to be fair, this policy had only been in place since 2015, so was fairly new. The absence of author comments, and the number of deleted author comments should also have been a red flag. I also didn’t read the comments left by readers of Alex’s blog, and I should have. You get a good feel for the type of reader that the blog attracts (remembering that readers of reviews are also buyers of books) by seeing whether comments are snarky or kind. Are they fair, or just trolling for a response? Are they jumping on a bandwagon? Do comments shed any light on the review itself? Or are they only looking at superficial elements? My advice is to use comments as the yardstick to measure whether it’s worth submitting your book, and whether it’s likely readers will convert to buyers (which is usually the point of having books reviewed).
Book reviewers are valuable and they serve an important purpose, not least because they help authors build a profile. Reviewers provide readers with information about books so readers can make buying decisions. Is the book for them? Will they like it? Is it worth buying? Of course, this information is important when people were spending upward of $30 or more on a book. These days, with books often being free or .99, a monetary commitment is not the issue—time is. The question becomes: why would I want to read this book when there are other things I could be doing? Reviewers should be about about trust. Authors trust that their books will be treated fairly, and readers trust that the review is fair and balanced. It’s a pact that should be honoured by all involved.
For a reviewer that does engender trust, check out Melinda Kovac’s site – her reviews are thoughtful and considered. (Disclaimer: Melinda is a friend, and has also contributed an essay to the Secret Lives of Writers.)
See what all the fuss is about and write your own review*!
You can now read all 13 guests posts from Volume 1 in the one convenient ebook. It’s out now in the Amazon Kindle Store and in other stores (iBooks, Kobo, Nook etc.) too.
Full of writing inspiration and advice, if you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, and this book doesn’t get you putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), nothing will!
You can grab your copy from the Delicious Publishing Book Store.
*And if you liked this book—or even if you didn’t—I’d love you to post a review on Amazon or Goodreads.