Thursday, April 8, 2010

On My Soapbox: Author Relations

In my meanderings, I’ve again come across a couple posts that have made the synapses in my head go crazy. Thus, we’re here for another edition of On My Soapbox, in which I stand (okay sit here and type but shhh) here proudly and tell you what I think before fading back to my reading.

First and foremost, believe it or not, you can, in fact, support an author even if their book didn’t meld with you. Not every book is going to be a hit with every person. It’s a fact. Readers know it. Authors know it. Yes, the goal is to hit the biggest audience but no book will ever be brilliant to every person who gets their hands on it. Does the fact that you didn’t like it mean the promotion stops right there- the author failed? No. There are still other readers- the author still has a story to tell. A story they want to get out. You don't have to hinder that process just because their book didn’t make your little reading nerdness go crazy. Does that mean you have to totally bash the book in your review? No. Take a second to think about how you would feel if the tables were turned. Wait- let’s pitch it like this bloggers: How would you feel if someone left a comment on a review telling you they thought your blog was total trash and you should just delete it and crawl under a rock and die because you really just suck that much? Not too great, right? Which makes me wonder why some bloggers pitch reviews in a similar light, making a book seem absolutely horrible and it never should have been published and that author just wasted months and months of time trying to write it and get it published. News flash, enough people thought they had a strong product for it to even be on shelves. And if it’s from a small company or self published, that author believed in their product enough to put all that time and effort- energy and money- into getting it out there. Don't punish them for it.

You aren’t required to love every book. Does that mean just not posting a review? No- you can still post a review, even one that isn’t a 5 star gush fest. But there is a way to do it without cutting the author down. If the book was really that bad where you can't think of a single good thing to say, why did you even finish it? Put it down, pass it along, hope to find a new home for it. I have seen several bloggers do this- a book didn’t work for them but they offered up a contest hoping to find that book a good home where it will work. And I applaud these bloggers. I’ve posted “bad” reviews before. If a book didn’t work for me, I still reviewed it and I explained why. More than once, I’ve picked up a book where no matter how good the story line was, the writing alone just didn’t work for me. That’s my style- my anal tendencies. If the writing detracts for me, yes, I am going to give a lower rating to that book because that is one of MY criteria in a good book. Does that mean, after reading my review, that you should assume this book is crap and not read it? No. It is MY opinion. This is the reason I try to link other reviews into all my review posts- to give proof that hey, people really did like this book, even if I didn’t.

Am I embarrassed about posting less than 5 star reviews? No. I stand behind it. Do I try to hide my review away in the deep, dark recesses of the internet? No. It would be a cop out to only ever post good reviews- both for other readers and the authors. Authors have to develop a hard skin- they get it the first time they try to find a publisher or agent. And a well written- well versed- critical review can help them. If they see a trend of something that didn’t work for readers, it will, in fact, help them. Does that make it easy for them to swallow? Probably not. Do they still wish that every review was a love fest? Obviously. But do they know the reality? I would hope so.

If you request or receive a book for review, review it. It is called a REVIEW book for a reason. It isn’t called a sit on your shelf and collect dust and maybe one day it will get read book. If it doesn’t work for you, pass it on to someone who will review it. And if it’s an ARC, of course, don't sell it. It says not for sale on there for a reason. Because, believe it or not, it’s not for sale. If you can't finish the book, pass it on but let the author or publisher know, in a nice way, hey- this book didn’t work for me but thank you for the opportunity and to help support the book (because again, yes, you can STILL support an author even if their book didn’t work for you), I’ve passed it on. Think of their side- you’ve requested the book, and the review never shows. Does that mean you didn’t like it, or that you just didn’t bother? Neither is a comfortable scenario. Help them out.

As for author interviews- they do, in fact, receive countless requests for interviews. In some recent posts I’ve seen around, bloggers are flat out saying authors don't want you to contact them unless you’ve read their book. Maybe that’s true for some authors, but certainly not all. The publishing world is highly, highly competitive- and especially for the books coming out of the smaller publishing houses, the biggest way to get the book out there is word of mouth. Promotion. Publicity. With well written, original questions, an interview can go a long way- even if you didn’t like their book.

And I urge all of you bloggers, when firing off interview questions, to think about what you're really asking. Are you wanting to know how they came up with the idea or what they like the most about writing? Then Google their name and “interview” and you will find the answer. I bet for most you can even look at their website. Take into consideration how busy authors are, not just with writing. Many have families, day jobs, and plenty other things to suck up their time. Are they awesome for finding the time to do an interview? Yes. But try to make it original and unique- worth the time of both of you and your readers. Am I guilty of keeping the cycle of some of these questions going? Yes. But I do try very hard to get new ones in there too and I’ve gotten a very obvious, very appreciative response from authors for doing this.

Do I email authors with upcoming books I am interested in asking if they’d like to do an interview or a guest post to promote their book? Yes. Why? Because I want to help promote them- help spread word for their book and show something other than a book cover that we see over and over, on countless blogs with each new reveal because maybe, just maybe, my post will be the first time a reader sees it when they look in their reader and picks it out, instead of the other fifty ones in there. If I enjoyed a book that I picked up on my own, do I review it and let that author know? Yes. Do I buy 98% of the books I read, outside of review books? Yes. Why? Because even though it gets expensive, every book bought off B&N, amazon, etc is a book that directly helps that author. It creates demand, helps push them towards a second, third, fourth printing. It helps build them on the publishing end of it. So do I mind spending a few hundred bucks a month on books? Not one bit. Is it really any different than going out to eat and leaving a nice tip to the waiter, even if he’s new and wasn’t great but gosh darnit, he’s trying and he works on tips? Not at all.

Find unique ways to help promote these authors. Offer your blog to them- make your blog more than just a place for reviews. Give something back to the authors who are writing these books we are devouring. If you offer a slot on your blog- big or small follower- the authors will be appreciative. I have not had one yet that told me to get lost, that I was wasting all of our time. Every author I have been in contact with, whether it was to try setting up a chat on my forum or an interview on here, has been thankful. Have some authors not replied? Yes. Does that make them a jerk? No. Even if they purposely ignored me, it doesn’t matter. They have their reasons. They are busy. Maybe they intended to email me back and it got pushed down and they forgot. Am I going to bash them or not buy their books because of it? No. If I request a review book and they don't have one, will I not read the book? No. I am still going to go buy it. Heck, I still intend to buy a finished copy of most of the review books I get and find good homes for my review ones, one way or another.

And more than anything, remember they are people too. Their cars break down. They get sick. Their child breaks an arm. Their husband buys decaf instead of regular and screws them up for a week because they are tired but still find a way to push through and keep up what they need to. Be kind and courteous. Don't break them down and hurt their work- their book- their livelihood- just because you didn’t like a book. If an author offers to send me their book for review even when I request an interview, do I review it, even if I didn’t like it? Yes. Because that was the agreement I made when I accepted that REVIEW book.

These are just my thoughts on all this. I really enjoy blogging but more importantly, I love helping all the authors out there, even if their book didn’t work for me. I firmly believe the very fact I showed interest- their idea was strong enough to grab me out of the thousands of books, they are already on a good starting ground. If it doesn’t live up to the standards I’ve set, that doesn’t make them a bad author. That doesn’t mean they should stop writing. And if I read a book that just came out and there are already hundreds of reviews out, do I still review it? Yes. Why? Because more than once, I’ve had a reader comment say thanks for this great review, you have made me want to read this. Because one review really can make a difference. And because that is one more review for that author- one more person who read their book, one more person promoting them. Do I personally think it’s a bummer to an author, even in the midst of a bunch of reviews, to see one where they just give a 1-2 sentence blurb because there’s a lot out there? Yes. Why? Because that is one less review that will go on places like goodreads and amazon- places that do help them on the publishing side.

In closing, if you read all this and yes, I get carried away but hey, it’s my soapbox (don’t graffiti it, I like it’s green color)… think about the person behind the book. Think about how you would feel if you were an author that gets a totally bashing review that makes you feel like you wasted months and months of your time. Think about how it would make you feel to get numerous emails asking for free stuff just to help the blogger. There is a difference between doing it to promote the author and doing it to try to be the blogger with the biggest following. Yes, you can have countless contests and make everyone be a follower but that doesn’t mean they are coming back for anything but the contests. That doesn’t make your blog good. And authors are smart- they have intuition and common sense and reasoning skills. They can see when it’s with honest intention and when it’s for selfish reasons. Don't hurt them like that with your selfish reasons. If you love books so much you have an entire blog dedicated to it, then help the authors because they are the reason we even have the books that define these blogs.

*Steps down from soap box, puts it back in its corner, and picks up the latest read*


  1. *bows down to the awesome Kari*

    I agree with everything you said, especially the part about not liking a book but saying so in a good way. Most of my reviews have been positive so far but occasionally I'll get a book where I just wasn't amazed. One book where I can honestly say I DIDN'T like was Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard. But still, I gave my copy away on my blog because I KNEW somebody else would like it more than I did. And you're absolutely right about writing a critical negative review. I've seen authors comment on (TASTEFULLY WRITTEN) negative reviews of their books and actually say thank you because they understand what may have not worked the first time around. It's all about the respect! So shame on those greedy bloggers for asking so much and giving practically nothing in return.

  2. Reviews are personal opinions, first and foremost. Authors, by the time they get published, should be high used to negative reviews/critiques of their work. If they're not, they're in the wrong profession. As a writer myself, I've been on the receiving end of some rather harsh criticism of my own work. It sucks but you learn to garner the information you need to improve and move on. In my reviews, I'm reviewing the book, not the author as a person. Sometimes people feel that lines blurs or that offering a negative review is an attack on the author as a person to begin with. Not really. I haven't read any of these offending reviews but if someone didn't like the book and they say things to the effect of "this author is a life fail and should stop writing altogether to save the world their misery," that would make me want to slap someone. I mean really.

    Like you said, there was obviously *something* compelling about the book or it wouldn't have gotten published. Different strokes for different folks and all.

    And for ARC requests, I've heard a lot about the supposed competition on our blogging world about getting ARCs. Such is the wonder of working in a bubble. I don't see that. If I happen to see a book that I really like and I really want to help promote it, I'll request it but that's rare. Like twice a year rare. If I get someone asking me if I'd like to read an ARC, and it sounds interesting, I'll request it. If they don't request it get done in a specific amount of time, it gets put at the top of the pile and I'll get to it. It won't be six months down the line but it won't be tomorrow either. Publicists know that we have a lot on our plates with books and they know we all have day jobs so they're understanding that we're not machines. But I'm not keeping track of people's IMM posts to when they post reviews either.

    Really, to each his own. The publicists, I'm sure, keep track of people they like working with and those that don't deliver on their end of the bargain. In the end those that don't deliver will just stop getting those emails.

  3. I love it when you're on your soapbox... you make fabulous points.

  4. This is an excellent post, and one of the many reasons I so do love book bloggers.

  5. I LOVE it when you get on your pretty green soap box! Yet again many fabulous points!

  6. That's the longest post I have ever read, lol. But it's very true!!

  7. I agree! Thanks for getting this point of view out there.

  8. I definitely think there are very appropriate times to interview authors even when you haven't read the book yet. Authors are definitely going to vary on whether they want to do this or not, and it up to them to let us know.