Saturday, January 28, 2012

To the book reviewers

This might come as a shock, but I like to read. I know! An author who reads books? Well try to keep your eyeballs in your heads, folks, because I'm going to tell it like it is. Straight up truth! Ahem, anyway.

SO, I like to read (duh), and because there are way way way more books out there than I could possibly ever consume even if reading was my full time job, I also enjoy book reviews. Especially clever, funny, insightful reviews that are as entertaining to read as they are informative about the book (see all of Smart Bitches). I have an RSS feed of dozens of reviewers I read on a regular basis just because I like hearing about books. This list includes reviewers whose opinions I never agree with, but who I keep reading just because I like seeing the other side. And as an author, I especially love book reviewers because without them, getting any attention for a debut novel that doesn't have a big ad push behind it would be nearly impossible.

I know what you're saying, "Ok, Rachel, we get it, you're a book review nerd. Why are you stating the obvious?" Well, because there's been some shenanigans going on across the internet that, I feel, need some addressing.

First off, let's review what a book reviewer actually is. A book reviewer is someone who reads and gives their opinions so that other people who might be interested in a title can get a taste for if the book is their thing or not before they purchase it. This means a book reviewer's audience is their readers, the people who come to their site or column or Goodreads account to check out what books are worth pursuing. A book reviewer has no obligation to give a book a good review. A book reviewer has no obligation to review a book AT ALL (well, unless they work as a reviewer for a paper that demands reviews of certain books as part of the job).

The vast majority of book reviewers these days, especially in genre fiction, write reviews as a labor of love. They don't get paid for it other than whatever advertising they can get from their websites, and many don't make any money off their reviews at all. With this in mind, I get astoundingly frustrated when I see things like this. Yep, that is a contract sent by a (small) publisher to a book reviewer. A CONTRACT, for a book review, telling them things like what review system they should use, and trying to make them sign over rights to their review, etc. etc. And in return for all this rights snatching and bombastic downtalking, the lowly reviewer has the honor of reviewing the publisher's books.

*deep, calming breath*

Ok, so this is one really horrid example of how people can get forget the fact that every time a book reviewer selects a book to talk about, they are doing the publisher a favor. But there are plenty of examples of authors and publishers treating reviewers and book bloggers like they are the ones who should be grateful, and that's just not how things works. A good review is not the reward you get for sending someone a free copy of your book. Every review, good, bad, or otherwise, is a gift. Each one represents a book lover taking time out of their life to read and write something thoughtful about your work. Authors and publishers should spend their time worrying about how they can thank reviewers and make getting books to them easier, not how they can best ensure a stream of positive reviews in time to meet their pub date.

So, just in case I haven't made it clear yet, let me go ahead and give you Rachel Aaron's official policy on book reviews:

If you reviewed my book, thank you. If you loved it and said so, you made my day a million times over, thank you! If you hated it, I'm sorry, but still, thank you for reviewing it. If you reviewed it on Amazon, thank you. If you gave it one star, it made me sad, but I'm STILL GLAD YOU DID IT. I said it before and I'll say it again, every review is a gift. Every single person who took their time to say something, anything, about my book deserves my appreciation and thanks.

There are thousands and thousands of books published every year in the US alone. For a new author like myself, the greatest threat is getting lost in that sea of titles. My fear isn't getting bad reviews, it's having my book sink because no one knew it was there. Every time someone writes a review of my work, even if that review isn't glowing, new readers hear about my book, and the risk of fading away grows less.

Book review work is demanding, the least I can do is try my utmost to make sure it is never thankless. So to all reviewers out there, the big ones and the small ones, the pros and the casual Amazon raters, thank you. Thank you for reviewing my book. Thank you for reviewing books period. Thank you for helping to get new authors going and bring attention to older books that might have gotten overlooked. I owe a great many of my sales to my reviews, and I never, ever forget that.

Thank you, thank you, and thank you. And if anyone tries to treat you badly, I will cut them.

Yours forever,


Anonymous said...

I whole heartedly agree! I think that it is super nice of a book reviewer to take HOURS out of her/his life to read and then take the effort to write (basically a book report) about the novel.

Book reviewers have to wade through a lot of slush to get to the gems. They are a very important and extremely under appriciated group.

I am glad to read that others respect them as much as we reader do. :) Great post.

p.s. my fav reviewer are: *shoutout

Denny S. Bryce said...

Love this blog post and your position on book reviews. I completely agree!

Unknown said...

Your ideas about book reviewing and reviewers are concise, apt, reasoned and intelligent, in my view. We readers might give up in the face of the vast array of published works were it not for reviews and reviewers. Reading a spectrum of reviewers offers me the opportunity to shatter my internal cruft and open my eyes to different skies.
Thanks for giving us your thought with such eloquence.

Rachel Aaron said...

Thanks for the great comments! So glad yall enjoyed it!

Anna said...


Just dropping by to say that I really love your blog, and that the book review contract made me crack up. The world's gone mad.

On a side note, I absolutely love thieves, so the fact you wrote books about a cheery one made my day. I think I'll review your books myself! On another side note, you read manga, watch anime and play games next to reading/writing, which is surprising yet awesome.

tl;dr - I am fangirling over everything here, consider me a new fan :D!

Elfy said...

Rachel, I'm one who reviewed your 3 books on my blog, so thanks for the thanks and I'd like to further thank you for writing the books, because they were a joy to both read and review.

Sita said...

Oh right, that can't be, you are making this up to increase your popularity, aren't you?
This is speaking with wisdom, and I can't agree more with you. I love reading reviews, and what I wait from reviewers first is honesty.

This is really encouraging to see that authors like you have the same view on reviews!

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