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Don’t Do This, Ever: “Reviews Feed Us” edition

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There have been a few graphics going around social media lately that kind of rub me the wrong way.

Graphic reads: Save An Author. Give A Review" with a heart beside it.

 

Photo of an open book, with the words "The best way to thank an author is to write a review.

In the past, this sentiment never bothered me. I may have even expressed it a time or two. But I’m seeing an increase in readers speaking out about this practice. Now, from a reader’s point of view, I’m starting to see why this is frustrating.

Imagine going to see a movie. It’s a fun movie, you enjoyed it. You left the theatre feeling you got your money’s worth. Then, when you got home, the director has posted a Facebook message: “If you want us to be able to keep making movies, please consider writing a review at Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB.” How would that make you feel? Pressured? Guilty? Obligated? Maybe you wouldn’t go see a movie directed by that guy again, because you don’t want to deal with the plea for reviews.

What if you went to Home Depot and bought a new plunger? You brought it home, it worked fine, you’re happy with it. Then Home Depot sends you an email saying, “It would really help us out if you reviewed that plunger.” Nope, no thanks, Home Depot. I’ll shop at Ye Olde Hardware store from now on.

Do you, like me, get annoyed when Amazon Marketplace or eBay sellers send out messages asking for ratings and feedback? I freak out. I just wanted to buy something from you. I don’t want to help you build your business. I’m not looking for a symbiotic relationship here. Just let me buy my stuff and leave.

When someone reads my book, I view it as a consumer transaction. They either bought the book or checked it out from the library or downloaded it, and once they’ve done that, the transaction is completed. Nothing further is required from either of us. If a reader wants to reach out, I’m there, but they’re not obligated to. They can leave a review, if they’re so inspired. But they owe me nothing, because we’ve both benefitted from the exchange (unless they thought the book was shitty).

Some of the graphics I’ve seen suggest that if you don’t review, the writer might starve:

Graphic says: "The care and feeding of an author on Amazon. Buy the book. Share "I just bought..." Write a review. Like it. Tag it. Share the link. Keep 'em fed. Keep 'em writing." with various graphics from Amazon, Facebook, Youtube, etc. A thumbs up graphic with "Feed an author, leave a review".

Or, that they might stop writing. This is some fanfic bullshit if I’ve ever seen it. So many writers will tell you that the reason they write is because they enjoy it. It’s too difficult a job to do if your heart isn’t in it. So, if what you need to enjoy it is reviews, and you’re not getting them and your heart is not in it, then maybe it’s time to rethink some priorities. But it’s your job to decide whether or not to continue. Don’t put that responsibility on readers.

I’m not trying to be harsh here. I know that it’s frustrating when you see people racking up fantastic review after fantastic review. I know you want your book to reach the widest possible audience and have two full pages of positive quotes to sell it. But why alienate the audience you do have by holding that “no new chapter until I hit fifty reviews”-style fanfic threat over their heads?

What about making money? Don’t reviews help you make money? If you’re a professional writer, writing is your job. It might be your second job. Hell, it could even be your third job. But if you’re making money from it, it’s a job. If isn’t financially feasible for you to continue, then…you don’t continue. A reader doesn’t need to “feed an author”. They’re not responsible for the financial success or failure of your writing business, so to suggest that by not leaving a review they’re condemning you to poverty is absurd. Especially if they already bought your book, thus actually contributing on a monetary level.

Which brings me to the graphic that inspired this post. Six writers I’m friends with on my personal Facebook have shared this so far. They’re all awesome people, with only the best intentions. I’m just not sure they get how this sounds:

Graphic that reads: "Reviews help authors. Readers choose books based on recommendations. Leaving an Amazon review is like telling your friends how much you enjoyed your last read. After 20 to 25 reviews, Amazon includes the author's book in 'also bought' and 'you might like' lists. This increases its visibility on the site and helps boost sales. After 50 to 70 reviews, Amazon highlights the book for spotlight positions and includes it in its newsletter. A HUGE books for the author. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW AT AMAZON FOR AUTHORS YOU ENJOY READING!"

Since when do readers need to worry about helping us overcome Amazon’s arcane algorithms? It’s not their job to publicize our books for us. If you want to get into a newsletter, there are plenty of them out there. And blogs. And ad space on blogs. Is it cheaper to get free promotion? Sure. But is it worth the risk of losing readers by constantly begging for reviews?

Again, I’m not trying to be harsh. It’s one thing to ask for reviews on something you’re giving away for free, like fanfic or fan art or what have you, because the review, or even clicking the kudos button on AO3, is a form of (voluntary) payment. But if someone is paying you for a book, all they need to give you is money. My dentist has never once said to me, “Yeah, you paid your bill, but if you don’t help me fix this hole in the roof, I have to close down my practice.” The consumer has already paid for what they’ve gotten. They don’t need to stick around and fix the hole in your roof.

Plus, reviews are time consuming. Even a single line of “It was good, I liked it” takes time out of a reader’s day. They already gave your book the time it took to read it. Why on earth should we be asking for more? And it feels as though the question devalues that reader who doesn’t leave a review. “You don’t count,” we’re saying. “You read the book, but you didn’t leave a review, so you’re not as appreciated as my other readers.” And many bloggers have been scared into not writing reviews anymore, because of the way some bad apple authors have treated the whole blogger bunch.

Reviews are nice. Good ones make us feel good. And that’s super. But just because something makes you feel good, doesn’t mean you deserve it. And we have got to stop acting entitled to a reader’s public opinion.

102 Comments

  1. phoebeblue
    phoebeblue

    Thank you, Jenny. I am a VORACIOUS reader, but I don’t care at all about reviews for fiction- I know what I like, I know the risk of jumping in, and I don’t return a book unless it’s just egregiously awful. Pushes for reviews irritate me because I already paid for the product, I’ll tell friends it was good, but I’m not gonna write something as trade for the author having written something, you know? And a one line “it was good” review doesn’t mean SQUAT when reviewing a book. A toaster, sure, but not a book. Okay, gonna stop now, you covered this already.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • Courtney Harris
      Courtney Harris

      YES! I, too, love fiction and read the hell out of it. But sometimes I just didn’t really care for a book. I can see why other people liked it, but it didn’t float my boat for whatever reason. I don’t want to give it a bad review because it wasn’t to my taste, but I’m not going to give it a good review or explain why it didn’t change my life like other reviewer have.

      Sometimes I feel like a terrible person because I rely heavily on reviews before making purchases on books and clothes and small appliances….everything! But I rarely leave reviews myself. I guess I feel like usually my sentiments have already been expressed (either way) by someone much more eloquent than me. How many, “that was the best ______ I’ve ever ______ in my life!” reviews does anyone need?

      August 29, 2016
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  2. kasper11
    kasper11

    I agree and disagree. Some of the memes you posted are way too intrusive, and some are just plain silly.

    But, there isn’t really anything wrong with reminding people that reviews don’t matter. I almost never leave reviews or bother rating things. Honestly, no particular reason, just don’t usually bother.

    And that’s why some of these could be helpful. I think its worth pointing out to people that reviews actually do matter. It could actually help, not just the author, but also the people who are considering what book to read. I actually like the last one that you posted, because it contains information I did not know.

    I think the big thing is how often authors are pushing these and what the message is. The last one isn’t putting any onus on the reader. Its laying out the information. The ones saying you have to do it to keep a writer writing are different; they are placing an obligation on the reader. It’s like the first two…there’s a big difference, in my opinion, between “thank an author” and “save an author”. One feels like a suggestion of a nice gesture you can make; the other sounds like a life and death obligation.

    August 3, 2016
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    • Thank an author for what? Writing? Doing his or her job? And what if the reader doesn’t like the book and leaves a negative review?

      I’ll leave a review (beyond star rating) under one of two circumstances: It was an amazing, beyond belief, book; or it was horrible and I want to tear it apart. So you better hope, if you’re begging for my review, that I loved your book because otherwise I’m pretty brutal. I have an English lit degree. I tear apart grammar, plot holes, character development, you name it. And I catch every little detail.

      August 3, 2016
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      • Couldn’t agree more, Renee. Once someone puts their book out in the public domain (as in, for sale/readily available) that’s it. Their job is DONE. If I spend money and time reading a book, I’ve bought my right to have an opinion on it, for good or bad. I’ve also bought the right to put the book aside and never say another word about it.

        My genuine, for realzy opinion on this? If an author wants a 5-star review, they need to write a 5-star book, instead of ripping my nips for it.

        The problem comes when an author sees readers not as readers, but as staff in their promotions department. In the past month I’ve had emails from electrical companies, my mobile phone provider, Amazon, a craft shop and a stationery store asking for reviews. Guess how many I’ve given? 😉

        August 3, 2016
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        • Oy. Don’t get me started. I’m so tired of being asked to rate everything. It would be another full-time job. Just take my money, give me my product or service and go away. If I get good service, I’ll recommend my friends and family use you and I’ll use you again. That’s it. Good enough!

          And, yeah, if you write a 5-star book, I’ll give you a glowing review because, damn, there are so few of them out there anymore. I want to encourage that for my own selfish reading needs. But I’m not going to reward anything less than that.

          August 3, 2016
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      • Chris
        Chris

        I… yes? You thank people for doing their job all the time. That’s not unusual to me.

        August 3, 2016
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        • Sure, when, say, a waitress hands me a drink I say, “Thank you.” Then I leave her a tip. I don’t write a long, glowing letter at the end of the meal.

          I bought the book. I read it. End of story unless I feel particularly moved to write a review. The author didn’t give me a gift that requires a thank you note.

          August 3, 2016
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          • the-great-dragon
            the-great-dragon

            I don’t think it was suggesting a thank you note. ‘Thank An Author’ is a saying that’s supposed to remind people that authors work hard and a lot goes into the books we enjoy. There are a lot of people who are very selfish and entitled with writers (fandoms and such can be very toxic and demanding.)

            I think OP was saying that ‘Thank An Author’ is a sort of harmless, beneficial idea, as opposed to ‘Save Authors from Poverty. Rate or All Authors are ~Doomed.’ Which is basically the ethos of what Jenny is talking about.

            August 4, 2016
    • Cara
      Cara

      I feel the same way! I wouldn’t want to be told, “you’re leaving an author to starve by not writing a review,” but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a gentle encouragement like “every review matters.” I actually just read one of Jenny’s stories on Kindle, and I thought about reviewing it because I liked it, but decided not to because I felt like I didn’t have anything insightful enough to say. That last graphic helped change my mind!

      August 3, 2016
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    • Lindsay
      Lindsay

      I also agree and disagree. I am very bothered by the guilt-driven memes and the targeted requests. Like, if I had an author friend that left one of those memes on my facebook wall? That would upset me a lot. But I’m not offended by someone posting it on their own wall; I feel like facebook in general is a big cesspool for people to post memes that illustrate how they feel about stuff that’s important to them, and something like this is probably important to a lot of authors.

      Then again, I always viewed being an author as part craft/art, part business. While your publisher may help market your work, no one is going to take a bigger interest in marketing your work than you. And marketing is a very common part of business. So I guess on that note, I don’t find this idea of asking for reviews as part of your marketing strategy to be inherently offensive, but, just like any marketing scheme, there are offensive and inoffensive ways to carry out your plan. Making your readers feel guilty for not taking time out of their day to write a review is probably a bad marketing strategy. Providing useful information for readers (like the amazon meme you posted), and not making them feel guilty, is perhaps a better strategy.

      August 3, 2016
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  3. Sheila the Wonderbink
    Sheila the Wonderbink

    I wonder how many of those writers got their start in fanfic. That would explain why they use similar guilt-based promotional tactics.

    August 3, 2016
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  4. If an author begs for a review, no matter how politely, I never buy their books again. I buy your book, transaction’s over, done, shut up, leave me alone. Same goes for people buying my books. I don’t care if they review or not. If my book’s good enough, they’ll talk about it without my prompting them. Extorted praise means Jack shit. It’s not my job to feed an author or further their career. In the words of Bros (YEAH I’M GOING BACK TO THE 1980s), I owe you nothing.

    August 3, 2016
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  5. I’m incredibly old-fashioned in how I choose books. I can’t pick something online. I just can’t. I need to browse through shelves in a store, read the back of a book that catches my eye … Sometimes I read something someone I know recommends. I’ll read new books from authors I’m familiar with and already love.

    I have never, ever chosen a book because Amazon recommended it. I know I’m in the minority, though. I don’t know what I’ll do if bookstores cease to exist in my lifetime. 🙁

    I’ve also discovered that reviews are useless to me. There are glowing reviews of books I hated and reviews trashing books I loved and I can’t know my own opinion until I read the books. Some of the most popular and loved books out there are books I’ve absolutely hated to the point I want to burn them after reading. So I no longer care what other readers thought, especially because sometimes I read a book and read reviews and think, “These people did NOT actually read this book …”

    August 3, 2016
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    • Monittude
      Monittude

      Amazon book reviews (no idea about any other sites) seem to be hopelessly compromised. I’ve started reading only the one/two star reviews. If they are thoughtful, well-written, make valid points, and there’s a repeating theme, that’s a good indication I shouldn’t buy the book.
      I’ve seen a fair number of what look like sock puppet reviewers that have picked the wrong star rating. Usually the reviewer goes by an unexceptional first and last name and gives one star but a generically positive review, like “Very good, couldn’t put it down”. Either that author has bought (incompetent) fake reviews, or the people who like their books are thick as two short planks. Either way it raises a red flag.

      August 5, 2016
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      • Siobhan
        Siobhan

        Or else the review is actually a generic breakdown of the plot. If that’s the only kind of review you can come across, it’s not a good book.

        August 7, 2016
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    • Mel
      Mel

      I’m exactly the same way. I don’t put any stock in reviews (except for very rare exceptions, like when a favorite author whose blog I happen to follow plugs a book that also seems to hit all my “I want to read that” buttons, or my husband/someone else who knows me exceptionally well and personally recommends a book). I also don’t pick out books online. I too am a bookstore browser (and terrified of the thought that we may one day live in a virtual bookstore only world; hopefully that will never happen!).

      Unfortunately, all those points also make it difficult for me to get into self-pubbed works. I don’t have the time or energy to sort through the crazy quantities of self-pubbed stuff out there to find the ones I might like; books published by old-fashioned publishing companies tend to be those that get my dollar, because I know that someone at least vetted the book in some way and, theoretically, ensured that it went through some kind of editing process.

      Granted, publishers make mistakes, sign terrible books, and completely fail to edit books properly from time to time (probably too often, in fact), but at least it’s something. I know there are probably a ton of great self-pubbed works out there that I’d love, but for someone like me who doesn’t pick books based on reviews, it’s tricky to get into…

      August 24, 2016
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  6. I will, to a certain degree, tolerate those sorts of memes/images/tweets/whatever. Reminding if I enjoyed/read a book to leave a review around the publication date–okay yes, that’s fine because frankly pub dates get lost in my calendar too easily. There’s a sale happening so a slight push to post that review, that’s understandable.

    Running a contest to boost visibility and reviewing gives you an extra entry into said contest – sure come at me bro.

    Constantly seeing it…yeah I start to get the same irritating eyetick I get when I read older fanfics. “Read&review teehee” and “don’t forget to review its how I know to keep going!” type statements in fanfic is what drove me away from it. They got intrusive as hell.

    I unfollowed a few authors recently for this reason – their social media had basically become “Plz RT: [insert something about their book]” or “So-and-so book got another review! Keep’em coming!” and that’s it. And honestly if a reader is following your social media its a highly likely chance their the sort who already review books and either have/or will review yours if they feel inclined. The vasty majority of readers are still casual readers who consume and move on after all.

    August 3, 2016
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  7. Nanani
    Nanani

    Yep, all of this. Also applies to a lot of things on the internet, e.g., Youtube people who spend a lot of time at the start and/or end telling you to SUBSCRIBE!!!

    Maybe I just don’t want to make an account on whatever service you want reviews/subscriptions on.

    August 3, 2016
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  8. Amelia
    Amelia

    I’m kind of torn on this. I can certainly understand the frustration on both sides. I write fanfic, and reviews and comments are some of the only ways we have of reaching out to our readers, the only tangible way to know that our writing is making a difference to anyone, the only way to know if we’re achieving what we’re trying to achieve. I understand that being pushy is counter productive (nothing turns me off an author more than review-ransoming) but, I still sign off my authors notes with a thankyou to all those who commented or left kudos, and the statement that it makes my day to get them. I kind of hoped that that would both surreptitiously encourage people to review, and also make those who had previously reviewed feel appreciated, and more likely to review again. Do you think that’s too hamfisted? Too pushy? It’s just, getting reviews is the only thing that makes me feel like my writing is making an impact, that’s its worth doing, and I can’t imagine that feeling going away if I put pricetage on it. A sales figure can tell you how well a book sells, but a review tells you that you’re book meant something to someone, and that’s one of the best things about writing, aside from the writing part, at least. I can understand your frustration, but, I also really empathize with authors begging for reviews. Does that make sense?

    August 3, 2016
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    • Maggie
      Maggie

      As someone who has been both reading and writing fanfic for 35 years this fall, statements from authors about how much they love getting kudos/reviews immediately turn me off ever giving them one.

      August 3, 2016
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      • shel
        shel

        How do you feel about just a thanks for reviews? I know I have sometimes put a generic thank you to people for reading and also for reviewing, but I also hate the “5 reviews and I’ll post another chapter” so I would never think of doing that.

        I keep writing because I want to tell the story I’m trying to tell… I hope that means people are reading it, though as a writer for a less popular side of a triangle, the hits are less, and reviews even more so. But I will finish the story even if no one is reading it. It’s nice to have a review, and even nicer when there is some critique involved, since it’s fanfic and I don’t use a beta or have any other feedback… but I can’t make anybody write a review and I’m not going to beg for them either. I don’t think it’s so wrong to say hey, thanks for that, it was really nice… in addition to appreciating people for just taking the time to read the story.

        But what Jenny is talking about, with published authors that are being paid to write and are still begging for reviews, is definitely a do not do this ever worthy offense.

        August 3, 2016
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        • I see nothing wrong with a “thank you for the reviews.” That’s much different from begging for or demanding reviews or saying you write only for the reviews. Thanking people for something they’ve done willingly on their own with no compensation is just polite.

          August 3, 2016
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      • drmaggiemoreau
        drmaggiemoreau

        Wow, I didn’t know fanfic had such a long history! That’s really cool.

        August 7, 2016
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        • Laina
          Laina

          People wrote fanfic of Don Quixote!

          August 7, 2016
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    • the-great-dragon
      the-great-dragon

      The people responding to you are so weird. Of course it’s normal to thank people for commenting or giving kudos. It’s wonderful to receive feedback for stories, and when you write fanfic it’s for FREE. Literally the only point of publishing it is to share it with other people, and no one wants to lay out a nice big gift for others and be given silence in return.

      Fanfic is interactive. That’s the point. It’s part of a fandom, a community, and while some people like to read w/o commenting or kudo-ing (which is fine,) reaching out to other fans is a big part of the whole thing and if an author doesn’t hear back, they can just as easily write for themselves and never put it out there. I’ve written tons of fanfics I’ve never published, because I loved writing them but I don’t want to share with people who won’t appreciate them.

      (I think once you put a price tag on it, it’s a different story. I don’t think it’s a good idea for paid authors to get involved in reviews of their books.)

      August 4, 2016
      |Reply
      • And I think it’s really weird that you think writing a book or a fanfic is a gift to anyone but yourself.

        I write. I’ve been writing my entire life. I write for me and only me. If other people read and enjoy what I write, that’s wonderful. But I don’t do it for anyone but myself. It isn’t something I’m “giving” to anyone. It exists to be consumed if others choose, but it isn’t FOR them.

        Don’t thank me for it. If I ever publish and you are so moved, feel free to write a review (good or bad). But not out of obligation to thank me for my “hard work.” Writing is not something I do because someone is paying me. It’s something I do because it’s who I am. That’s like paying me for having curly hair. A lot of people appreciate my curly hair. And I have to say, through most of my life it was hard work having curly hair. But I don’t think it’s something to be thanked for just because people enjoy looking at it.

        August 4, 2016
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        • the-great-dragon
          the-great-dragon

          I didn’t say writing was a gift. I said PUBLISHING a fanfic was a gift to other people (as in you’re sharing your hard work.) Literally the only way you know people are reading and enjoying your fanfic is if they comment. Call me old school, but fanfic’s not consumerism, it’s a shared experience. That’s what fandom is.

          Not to mention that most fanfic writers are beginners who don’t have editors or a lot of education/experience, so they need constructive criticism. Fanfics were published so writers could share them with each other and crit/comments from other fanfic writers, and then the rest of fandom hopped on board to read them and it grew. Professional writers get paid. Literally the only compensation for fanfic writers is other people chipping in via comments, and there’s nothing wrong with thanking people for it. It’s like when Jenny thanks people for paying for her free books. No one acts like she’s a bad person for it or doubts that she’s writing because she loves it.

          August 4, 2016
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          • No, it isn’t. It is not a gift to anyone to publish your fanfic. Sorry.

            August 4, 2016
          • the-great-dragon
            the-great-dragon

            @renee, you can apologize for you opinion all you want (and I agree that you should,) but I won’t apologize for mine. Not sorry.

            August 4, 2016
          • JennyTrout
            JennyTrout

            YES. Fanfic is a part of a community. Now, I don’t like constant calls for action on fanfics. I’ll leave kudos, I’ll maybe leave a comment if I want to engage with an author, but I don’t like seeing a fic held for ransom (which is why I make the choice, as a reader, to not read incomplete fics if the author has threatened to abandon others due to lack of reviews). But yeah, there’s a difference between writing professionally and writing for fun.

            August 5, 2016
        • the-great-dragon
          the-great-dragon

          And if you actually read what I said, I was talking about why people PUBLISH their writing. Not why they write it.

          August 4, 2016
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          • Renee
            Renee

            No one said any of those things. You can appreciate writing as a gift. Writers shouldn’t expect it. Apples and oranges. You can thank them. It shouldn’t be expected.

            A writer who’s writing only for accolades is doing it from ego, not heart.

            August 4, 2016
        • the-great-dragon
          the-great-dragon

          Also, quite frankly, while I usually enjoy your comments, I find these unpleasant. I agree with Jenny, but I don’t agree with a lot of the views reflected in the comments here. I also think people are getting angry over something that’s really not that important, so I’m going to walk away from this post.

          August 4, 2016
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          • Hekateras
            Hekateras

            I agree with the-great-dragon. I don’t know you, Renee, but I’m detecting more than a hint of snobbery in your comments, especially in your attitudes towards fanfic. Yes, “give me enough compensation or I won’t publish the next chapter” is manipulative tactics, but hardly unique to the fanfic community. When a videogame company or film studio nixes the planned sequel because the pay-out for the first entry in the franchise wasn’t big enough, how exactly is that different?

            I don’t think it’s healthy to manipulate feedback out of your viewers, to be that dependent on feedback to the point of not being able to write without it. But yours and Jenny’s, frankly, haughty assertion that people ought to be able to write for themselves, and if they can’t, they ought to reassess their priorities, is bewildering to me. If you’re publishing something rather than letting it hibernate on your hard drive, you’re presenting it to the community. It is a present simply in the most technical sense of the word at the very least. The moment you’re publishing, you’re involving other people to share your experience of whatever you wrote, to share in the story. It is quite bewildering to me when writers like you insist that yes, you may be involving other people in sharing your story but don’t you dare expect or even hope for some response from them, for them to give something back in exchange for what you gave them.

            When you’re starting out, or if you’re just a ‘hobbyist’ writer without immediate plans of trying to get published, good reviews are a goldmine. I’ve written a lot of fanfic, some of it well-known enough in its respective fandoms that even years after leaving that fandom I still get the occasional email notification of someone working their way through them for the first time, often with detailed comments. And it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Would I have written so much of it without the initial wave of encouragement that made me go ‘I’m good at this, people like it and want to hear more’? Probably not. I don’t beg for comments or for reviews or for kudos. But I see nothing wrong with gentle – gentle! – reminders to fanfiction readers that if they liked the fic, they can give back some of that positivity they experienced by leaving a kudo or review or spreading the word.

            The thing is, people often don’t think twice about the creator of the work they consume. It’s a sad truth but I see it all the time. Visual art especially has its own problem with that. Artists and authors often feel removed from their creation – not even them, but often even the very idea of there being a person behind the work you’re consuming. So a lot of people consume it and move on, without thinking twice about how they can give back, about there being someone to give back TO. So while there may be a lot of things that, on the whole, don’t actually cost much time or effort, like a kudo or a share or a review – a half minute of your time, laughable compared to what the creator spent on their work – they often don’t think or know about them even though they WOULD actually enjoy helping to promote the work. I don’t see it as making them into staff for your PR company, I see it as a courtesy you can remind them exists IF they feel like showing extra appreciation.

            A lot of those memes are out of line, I agree. The consumer shouldn’t be made to feel like they’re solely responsible for the writer starving or not starving. But there’s nothing wrong with reminding, say, Tumblr users that the ‘like’ button they thoughtlessly click when they see a piece of original art actually does jack shit for the artist in terms of visibility, and that reblogs are infinitely more valuable. It’s not their job to help you beat Amazon’s algorithms but there’s nothing wrong with reminding them how helpful reviews can be, IF they want to be extra helpful.

            August 4, 2016
          • Tez Miller
            Tez Miller

            When a videogame company or film studio nixes the planned sequel because the pay-out for the first entry in the franchise wasn’t big enough, how exactly is that different?

            Because it’s not financially viable to make a sequel that may not earn back in sales the money spent to MAKE the thing. If sales for the first thing were disappointing, it makes sense there’ll be even less interest in the sequel.

            I think this thread has devolved. I think Jenny’s original post was about commercially-published books that are sold, as opposed to fanfic offered to readers for free. So arguments for one aspect may not be applicable to the other. Fanfic may be about “community”, but commercially published books are BUSINESS. These are very different things, and thus expectations should also be different.

            I guess the question is: even if you weren’t receiving comments/thanks/reviews/money, would you still want to write and publish the thing? Is it all about the validation, or is the process of writing and publishing worthy in and of itself for the creator? Is feedback necessary for you to keep wanting to create, or just a bonus? Will a “negative” comment ruin your day or your love for writing and publishing?

            And people are indeed aware of the Like and Reblog buttons. They know they exist, and if they see fit to use them, they’ll do so without being prompted to. Same with reviewing. Trust the process, that if readers feel like reviewing, THEY WILL, without being prompted or reminded. Those who only do it when prompted/reminded to, who are they serving? Oneself, potential readers, or the author?

            August 5, 2016
          • Renee
            Renee

            I don’t care if you’re describing fanfic or Shakespeare. Your piece of writing is not a “gift.”

            That is the most arrogant statement I think I have ever read in my life. Write, don’t write. Share it or don’t. NO ONE owes you a “thank you” for doing it. Holy crap. I can’t believe I have to say this to anyone older than 15.

            August 4, 2016
          • the-great-dragon
            the-great-dragon

            @Hekateras – I know I said I’d walk away, but this was the exact perspective I was coming from. You phrased it more eloquently than I ever could. THANK YOU!*

            For anyone else, no one said thanks were owed. And if you’re offended by my appreciating writing as a gift – a word I used because I think writing is wonderful, and am constantly grateful for stories and my ability to write or read them – you’re entitled to that, but my mind isn’t changing

            Also, for the record, even if I am a salty dragon, I am saddened that this conversation went the way it did, not because I was disagreed with but because I think there are better ways for people with different opinions to engage (or not engage, if that’s the better option.) I’ve tried to understand the flip side, but I just can’t for all the reasons you laid out, Hekateras.

            And THANK YOU* for understanding what I meant about publishing vs. writing!

            *lol, oop. Forgot i wasn’t supposed to thank people for their writing/comments. That’s ~offensive~

            [Alright, I’m done being salty. Promise.]

            August 4, 2016
          • Hekateras
            Hekateras

            @Renee: If you’re giving something to someone because you think they might like it and for no other explicit reason, with no strings attached, that is a gift. Whether it’s a GOOD gift or a gift they’ll ACTUALLY appreciate is another matter entirely. Maybe you’re hung up on that word and we’re operating by different definitions of it and are misunderstanding each other. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean this in the sense that I consider people to be blessed to get the *chance* to read my writing, that it’s something precious just because I made it. How much they like it is entirely up to them. Whether it’s any good is entirely up to them. But that doesn’t change the fact that (in the context of open writing and fanfiction) it’s something I’m giving to them for free, because I think someone out there might like it.

            “That is the most arrogant statement I think I have ever read in my life. Write, don’t write. Share it or don’t. NO ONE owes you a “thank you” for doing it. Holy crap. I can’t believe I have to say this to anyone older than 15.”

            No, actual arrogance is being so convinced that your way is the only respectable way to think that you patronise and belittle strangers on the internet over a difference of opinion and imply immaturity on their part. And never have I said a ‘thank you’ is ‘owed’. Never have I said ANYTHING is ‘owed’. It’s a matter of courtesy, not obligation. There’s a huge difference. But courtesy is important too. You don’t OWE the barista who hands you your coffee a thank you – you’ve bought the coffee, they get paid for their job, right? You don’t really “owe” them anything. (A “wonderful” type of customer, by the way.) But it’s a way of expressing appreciation, just like reviews and feedback are. And you may not OWE them that, but for them to experience a complete lack of that courtesy, even occasionally, will still leave a hole. You seem to think that it’s, what, it should be beneath a ‘True’ writer to crave validation of any kind. That if you can’t write for yourself, then you shouldn’t be writing. But it’s not always a matter of being so fragile that you give up easily in the absence of any feedback or that one negative comment destroys your day, or being able to write by yourself in a cave if you were the last human on Earth. The in-between is a spectrum and few people are purely only one or the other. You seem more interested in being exclusionary to writers (and let’s be real, we’re talking in great part about writers starting out, teenagers – not known for the greatest self esteem!) just so you can forward your own special status of being the Special kind of author who writes purely for themselves, than you seem interested in actually encouraging more people to write, in making writing a rewarding past-time, emotionally rewarding. I think more people would write if the culture of writing communities was more emotionally rewarding. I think that would be a great thing. Barring extremes who pander to fans entirely, I don’t think there’s actually a huge difference in quality between writers who write because they enjoy the interaction and the feedback and writers who write purely for themselves. If anything, the former seem like they’d be more open to concrit.

            @Tez-Miller
            “Because it’s not financially viable to make a sequel that may not earn back in sales the money spent to MAKE the thing. If sales for the first thing were disappointing, it makes sense there’ll be even less interest in the sequel.”

            In that same vein, if feedback is the only thing you can hope to get from showing your story to the world, it makes sense to stop investing the time and emotions into creating the next story if the pay-off for the first one wasn’t enough to keep your motivation juices flowing. And I’m sorry, but sometimes it does take that extra nudge of reassurance and validation to make you go from ‘I should write this’ to “I’m writing this’.

            August 5, 2016
          • JennyTrout
            JennyTrout

            To clarify, Hekateras, what I’m saying is, if the only way you can enjoy writing is by getting reviews and you’re not getting them (and therefore you are unhappy doing it), then you have to figure out if it’s worth it to you to keep doing this thing that you’re not enjoying. Writing is hard. Everyone knows this. Professional writers, fanfic writers, people in classes where they have to write stuff, it’s hard. But it’s not mandatory (well, unless you’re in those classes).

            If you’re writing something for free (like fanfic, since this thread has basically become about fanfic), is it nice to get comments and kudos? Sure! But I don’t get a lot of comments or kudos on my fanfic. If that was important to me, I would stop writing it, because there would be absolutely no reason I should do something for fun that I don’t enjoy doing. And I would probably be disappointed at how it turned out, but I can’t control whether or not people post reviews or hit the kudos button.

            Maybe there’s another angle here that I’m not seeing that makes me come off as haughty for suggesting this, but I genuinely cannot understand why someone would put themselves through writing if they’re no longer enjoying it.

            August 5, 2016
      • shel
        shel

        Which people are you referring to being weird? Isn’t the point of being able to reply on a comment thread to respond to things you find compelling?

        I didn’t think asking another question, or adding my opinion about how I feel when comes to reviews and begging for feedback was so weird.

        August 4, 2016
        |Reply
      • monkey_b
        monkey_b

        I know you said you’re signing out and not returning, but some of the responses you received were so bizarrely hostile and blockheaded that I felt compelled to come out of lurking to tell you I agree with you 100%.

        There’s absolutely nothing wrong with 1) craving interaction with your audience, 2) thanking people for their reviews, or 3) viewing writing, and fan fiction in particular, as a gift to the fandom community. Of COURSE it is. I can’t tell you how many fan fics I’ve read where I fthought, wow, this author has truly added to fan discourse and given something positive to the rest of us. I.E. a GIFT. And hell, even shitty fics are still just….shitty presents. Not something you wanted but a present nonetheless.

        Frankly, this bullshit purist “no true scotsman” blithering about what a real writer’s intentions and motivations are is rubbing me the wrong fucking way. People write for all KINDS of reasons. Some love the craft, some enjoy the escapism, some do it for validation, some for money, etc etc, the reasons go on and on. If they’re writing, then by God, they’re real writers. Full stop. Anything else is sanctimonious, elitist bleating.

        *kanye shrug*

        August 6, 2016
        |Reply
    • drmaggiemoreau
      drmaggiemoreau

      I think it’s cool to want reviews, and thank people for giving you reviews. But I think the behaviors described in Jenny’s post are sliding toward “Be Nice” and “Readers Only Exist for Meeeee”. You don’t sound like you’re doing either of those things. You’re honest, whereas “Review or no posts” is manipulative.

      August 4, 2016
      |Reply
    • Alison
      Alison

      I get what you’re saying and as a fanfic reader, your message wouldn’t bother me. There’s nothing wrong with wanting feedback. Besides, fanfic feedback tells you if anyone wants your stories, unlike selling a book in a store, where the fact that someone buys it will tell you that.

      I guess the difference is that feedback is a way of connecting with the author, and reviews are advertising for other readers.

      August 5, 2016
      |Reply
    • Siobhan
      Siobhan

      I tend to thank people for their reviews at the end of a story as well. I try and do it by name, and give extra recognition to anyone who commented more than once. But for me, it’s because I’m grateful that they took the time to respond and I want to acknowledge the efforts they made in helping me understand what I did well and what didn’t work so much. They don’t have to do it, why not acknowledge it?

      August 7, 2016
      |Reply
  9. Tez Miller
    Tez Miller

    (NOTE: I use the generalised “you” here – so I’m not addressing anyone in particular.)

    I blame The Art of Asking. You CAN ask people for stuff, but SHOULD you? There’s always the risk of the effect being completely opposite to the intention – the more people suggest leaving a review, the less likely you may be to actually review because of it.

    And think of the readers and bloggers already promoting your work – WITHOUT being prompted to. You don’t have to thank them, but at least don’t erase what they’ve already contributed – and sharing these graphics is the same as saying, “I don’t care what you claim you’re already doing for me. It’s not enough.”

    An indie-published “friend” on Facebook has the habit of telling me that “not everyone knows as much about this as you do”, in reference to authors using readers/bloggers/reviewers for unpaid promotional work . I KNOW. Which is why I try to explain my POV and spread the word (however small my reach), so that authors don’t intentionally turn potential – and current – readers away from their work. Of course, this is a pet peeve topic of mine, and she comments every time I post about the subject, that I “shouldn’t let this bother [me]” and “shouldn’t make [my]self angry”. But I’m not angry for me – I’m angry for the authors throwing away their shot because they don’t, or don’t want to, know any better.

    Sorry for the rant 😉

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
  10. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth

    “Or, that they might stop writing. This is some fanfic bullshit if I’ve ever seen it.”
    THIS. I haven’t seen any published authors I like do this, but I’d instantly lose a lot of respect for them if they did. Holding future chapters hostage unless you receive x number of good (meaning nothing but fawning) reviews or ratings is childish and petty, even for fanfic authors, and I hold published authors to a higher standard than people who write fanfiction just for fun.

    If I like a book, I’ll talk about it and recommend it to other people and post a positive rating on Goodreads. But I dislike being pushed for positive reviews, let alone all the extra promotion in the third graphic you posted.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • I think anyone who writes for any reason other than the love of writing should rethink being a writer. That isn’t to say that writers shouldn’t pursue it as a paying profession because of course who doesn’t want to make a living doing what they love?

      I’ve been writing professionally most of my adult life. I’ve been a journalist, I do some freelance things and I write some dull reports for a state agency. I’m “published” in several senses of the word. I have never published any fiction, though. Mostly because I haven’t been disciplined with my fiction writing. But I’ve been writing fiction my entire life and I will never stop. I hope one day that will be my profession — maybe, maybe not. I can only try. If I never sell any of it, if no one buys it, reads it or reviews it, then I fail at it as a profession. But it will always be who I am and I will always do it. Because it’s ME. I don’t do it for others. It’s nice if others enjoy it so I can keep doing it. But if I’m doing it for them, I’m not going to do it well or stay motivated.

      August 3, 2016
      |Reply
  11. Jen
    Jen

    I think the review and ratings systems are getting out of hand throughout all industries as Jenny pointed out how nearly every time she purchases a product, she’s asked for a review. It’s giving me a complex as the reviewer and as an author who gets reviewed.

    Recently, I was on a cruise. Had a great time. Crew did a wonderful job entertaining everyone. While disembarking, I complimented several of the Cruise Director’s staff on how much I enjoyed the activities they hosted. Immediately, they said that I needed to send a review to the cruise line. When I received a followup email from the cruise line, I needed to fill it out and then send it in. Their salaries were dependent on the positive reviews they received. Their contract renewals were dependent on receiving good feedback. One staff member told me how a person complained about the trivia contest she hosted and she couldn’t get any other strikes against her. I also was asked by my cabin steward and restaurant wait staff to leave reviews about them. I was so stressed as I left the ship. After having a relaxing week, now I had the weight of these cruise members’ jobs on my shoulders if I didn’t leave a review—and a positive one at that. And it wasn’t just the cruise staff who asked. Every person taking us on an excursion asked us to rate them so the cruise line can continue using them. It takes time to write a thoughtful review and remember everyone’s names after I return. And going back to my real life was stressful enough.

    Just like the people working this cruise, there’s this major pressure on authors to receive reviews. In every marketing workshop I’ve taken, the authors state the number one (or at least within the top 5) way to make sales was with reviews. I’ve been told over and over by best selling authors that you are dead in the water without reviews. You will not be discovered. You will not have any credibility. You will not qualify for BookBub and other high-reach advertising sites without having X amount of reviews that are 4.0 or higher. I see both newbie authors and those with 20+ books freaking out over getting enough reviews and getting good ratings. If they’re traditionally published, they want reviews to get a new contract. If they’re indie, then they want reviews for exposure.

    Unfortunately, this pressure is creating anxiety among authors regarding ratings/reviews, which bleeds over to the readers. Some authors have street teams where they gather their loyal readers in a group to review ARCs and do promo in return for swag. Some use NetGalley or set up blog review tours. Others ask family, friends and beta readers to review. These tactics are not invasive to the readers. But until the algorithms change and other options become available for authors to extend their reach within a small budget, I don’t think these requests are going away anytime soon.

    Knowing how I felt after the cruise, I will not ask any of my readers for reviews. I want my happy readers to come away with a positive outlook and not feel they owe me anything. Actually, I owe them to stop worrying about reviews and write the next book. 🙂

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • Rhiannon
      Rhiannon

      That sounds to me like the cruise ship bosses are shitheads. If that’s really true that those people’s jobs depend on it. 🙁 it would make me not want to take another cruise with them, to be honest, if that’s how they treat the employees.

      August 3, 2016
      |Reply
      • Jen
        Jen

        It did make me question the cruise line’s process because it’s not fair to call out employees based on a few bad reviews. Some passengers will complain no matter what. You could give them a free gold bar and they’d complain it was too heavy to carry. If a crew member was constantly getting complaints from passengers, that’s one thing. What bothered me was how on edge the many on the staff were about reviews and making sure that we left only positive ones. It really soured my experience with them.

        August 3, 2016
        |Reply
    • drmaggiemoreau
      drmaggiemoreau

      I’ve heard the same story about getting fired for no reviews from Home Depot employees. I was horrified, and I wrote a glowing review. If he was telling the truth, then I didn’t mind helping out such a helpful person. But it made me really nervous about Home Depot’s labor practices.

      August 4, 2016
      |Reply
  12. I don’t do it, because I feel bad doing it – asking for reviews, that is. However, the result is that the pushier authors get reviews and sales, the ones with big street teams who spend a lot of time sending ARCs out and promoting. Reviews are vital for Amazon visibility and for getting things like BookBub ads. Without them Amazon buries you in the rankings and BookBub turns you down. Despite having to pay big bucks for the BookBub ad, you have to qualify in order to pay them $600+
    So I decided to take my own advice. I’m writing the books I love, putting them out there, doing a little bit of promo to let people know it’s there and that’s that. I am having the inevitable results – low sales – but there you go. My books with publishers do a lot better, because they help me with promo and visibility.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
  13. I’m trying to review books as I read them for my own blog (I read faster than I write, though, so I’m quite a few books ahead of my reviews!). Old books, new books, popular books by popular authors, lesser-known books by lesser known authors. I do this as practice and because I enjoy it. If a friend wrote a book and asked me for a review, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. But if authors I follow, or even friends who are aspiring authors, shared a bunch of memes like this and begged for reviews, that wouldn’t fly with me.
    Also, I’m sure that authors who beg for reviews are actually begging for POSITIVE reviews. I doubt they’d be happy with negative reviews.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
  14. I thank authors for doing their job by paying for their work. End of, if you’ll pardon the pun, story.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
  15. Cg
    Cg

    Why on earth do you feel you must do everything you’re told? Why can’t you just ignore it and move on?
    I am so tired of visiting websites where everyone is always so angry or frustrated with everything. Where did positivity go and fun and pleasure? Why must every little thing set you off?
    Time for me to let this site go. There is enough crappiness in the world, that visiting a site that picks at everything in a negative way is no longer what I want to see.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • All very well in theory, until you think about the sheer number of times readers are asked to review. Take this blog post and multiply it by however many books you read in a year.

      August 3, 2016
      |Reply
      • Also, there;s just a touch of irony in Cg’s comment.

        I do love irony, though. 🙂

        August 3, 2016
        |Reply
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      Okay, first of all, if you don’t like my site, that’s totally cool, enjoy another site. But all of my “Don’t Do This, Ever” posts? Are advice to authors. This isn’t about picking at everything in a negative way (right now, I think two of the ten posts on my front page are “negative”). This is letting people know the behavior that readers don’t care for, so they don’t totally alienate them. I’m glad I learned this, and I hope some other authors will be happy to learn it, as well.

      August 3, 2016
      |Reply
  16. Laina
    Laina

    It takes me about an hour to write a full review. They tend to be around 800 to 1000 words because I have a lot to say. If I write 50 or 60 reviews, I could have written a full book of my own. That honestly does not usually count the formatting to make it look nice, which takes more time.

    I mean, I don’t get paid for blogging. (Unless you count the dollar fifty I’ve made in eight years from my affiliate link. I don’t really.) That is a lot of time out of my day that I could be doing things to make money to put food on my table. Should I start making graphics say, “Feed a book blogger”? XD

    Also, the Amazon specific one kind of weirds me out – my Amazon accounts (.com and .ca if you’re wondering) are under my real name. I don’t blog under my real name. There’s only one of me with my full name in the world as far as I can tell. It is really, really easy to find me, and that’s a little scary all things considering.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
  17. Victoriana
    Victoriana

    Honestly I’m not even that fond of the guilt-tripping for reviews on fanfiction. I occasionally write fanfiction, but even there I’ve never guilt-tripped or held my writing hostage to others writing reviews (like “if I don’t get more reviews, I’m dropping this story and not posting any more chapters!”). The most I’ve ever said is “if you like the story or want to provide feedback, feel free to leave a review”. It honestly just feels more courteous of other people’s time. No one’s forcing me to write and share fanfic online (I’m doing that for my own enjoyment, and if anyone takes the time to give me praise or constructive criticism, it’s a nice bonus), so why should I throw a tantrum to make other people leave reviews?

    In published fiction that’s sold commercially, this holds even more true, because like you said, once the reader buys the book (or gets it from the library or whatever), the transaction is over. You’ve already been compensated for your work on top of any intrinsic enjoyment you may get out of it. I honestly don’t mind a polite “if you like this book and want to leave a review, you can do so at Amazon.com/Goodreads”. But these banners that say things like “feed an author/save an author” are pretty discourteous, annoying, and unprofessional. It’s not our job as readers to feed you/save you. You write a book and publish it, we’ll buy it if we’re interested. But it’s not our job or obligation to leave a review, particularly when most of us are writing reviews for other readers to alert them to a good (or bad) book, not as free promotion for the author.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
  18. Amanda
    Amanda

    I actually have my Amazon account linked to an email I never check simply because the barrage of ‘please review this’ emails is so annoying.

    My anxiety can only take so much of people begging me for things and I have 3 kids now so yeah…. There’s a good chance I’ll just stop reading if the demands get too much. I read to escape.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
  19. Me
    Me

    I write fanfiction. I hardly get reviews, which is a bummer.
    I think its fun to read reviews (from the writers perspective) and I find it fun to read reviews as a consumer too. Not that I base any of my buys on reviews. An example, I loved a certain book that I wished for years had a sequel, and when I found out that there was a sequel I was over the moon. It had a ton of reviews, but a lot of them were not so great. Long story short, I enjoyed the sequel, so the reviews did little to dissuade me, but I still enjoyed reading them.

    Honestly, I suck at writting reviews, for anything, but I occasionally do. I worked retail, and even though I wasn’t working on a review system, customer service is king. I think that’s kinda what reviews are trying to establish (like in the example of someone above me that said she had to review the crew of the cruise ship she was on).

    Either way, if I don’t feel like leaving a review, or I have nothing to say, I don’t. If I feel like it or have something to opine, then I’ll leave a review.

    I don’t “feel” pressured to do so.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
  20. Myra Aliquis
    Myra Aliquis

    Slightly ironically, as this is a post about not feeling prompted to comment, it has prompted me to comment 🙂

    I feel, as an absentminded reader, that sometimes it is nice to be reminded to review. Often I want to, but forget due to not having the free time right at that moment. However, I agree that the reader should never feel pressured to review for any way, whether that is through the threat of withheld books or being thought of as an inferior fan.

    I guess something like “if you wish to review here are some places to do that” might be more appropriate than “feed me your reviews or I’ll STARVE!”

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • Victoriana
      Victoriana

      Exactly! I’d be way more receptive to the former approach that the guilting/threatening latter approach.

      August 3, 2016
      |Reply
  21. Spockchick
    Spockchick

    I bought a very basic sewing tool. I could go to a shop, buy it, use it, job done. Unfortunately I got it from amazon and I had about 4 communications, the last a bit agressive.
    Please review…
    You haven’t reviewed…
    There’s still time to review…
    If there is something wrong…

    Sorry, but I willnever buy from that seller again. I have better things to do. Get outta my grill!!!!

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • drmaggiemoreau
      drmaggiemoreau

      Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is not review. Recently, I bought a DVD from Amazon, and the seller charged me for shipping. Then, when the package was delivered, it was delivered without postage, so in order to get my product, I had to cover shipping again. That is some Harry Wormwood shit, right there.

      August 4, 2016
      |Reply
  22. Sheila
    Sheila

    While it’s creepy for the author themselves to follow readers around reminding them to review, this isn’t the author doing it? It’s other readers?

    And as far as fanfiction goes, you know what I’ve discovered as a fanfic writer of many (many) years ? People actually are waiting to be told they can do things like leave a review. Readers of fanfiction are so anxious about *everything* involving interacting with authors. Part of this is the general social anxiety which is so common in parts of fandom, and part of this is a climate in which people have *learned* to be terrified of saying the wrong thing to the wrong author and having it blow up in their face. I mean, this happens a lot because lots of readers have no idea how to properly review a story (confusing rudeness with honesty, making demands, not picking their battles, refusing to let it go) but authors don’t always react…well…to any slight hint of criticism of their fic because they very often *aren’t* pros or experienced writers. So in the Tumblr era, fandom has unwritten rules, you don’t offer concrit unless the author states in their notes that it’s okay (or you know them really well). But fear of approaching the author at all in case you say the wrong thing leaves people reluctant to acknowledge that they *read* a fic at all unless they have nothing but effusive praise for it. So you basically have to tell people it’s okay to talk to you about your story. And authors and readers have now had to mount word of mouth campaigns reminding people that yes, authors want to know what you think and yes, it is okay to express your opinion.

    and yeah, hell yes if I’m not getting reviews on my fanfic I may stop writing. Just because it’s totally manipulative to outright tell people that does not mean it stops being true that I’m doing the project entirely for free on my own time and in fandom, there *is* no money coming in for your work. Reviews are all you’re ever going to get.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • Hekateras
      Hekateras

      Thank you. This exactly. Especially if you have the “problem” of being a big nam fanfic author or if you’re on a platform where you don’t come off as readily approachable apart from the stories you put out (e.g. AO3 vs. Tumblr, the latter is a microblogging platform where people WILL see you interacting ‘normally’ and acting like a ‘normal’ person on your blog, and will have more to make you feel approachable to them than the odd one-line author’s note).

      And absolutely yes to the reviews. It’s human to want acknowledgement, validation, appreciation, even in the slightest form. Writing is a medium that is utterly meaningless without the reader. Without the reader, all you have – all you’ve ACTUALLy produced and created in the world – is little black lines and dots on a page. Sure, you as the writer may know what they mean, but all you did was transfer the story from inside your head to outside your head. But it still needs your head for it to be a story rather than just a jumble of symbols, so what did that even accomplish, without a reader?

      The only thing the ‘If you’re not writing for yourself, you shouldn’t be writing at all’ sentiment has ever done for me is made me insecure about considering myself a ‘writer’ of any kind, to the point where, after writing hundreds of thousands of words in fanfiction and RP, putting so much thought into character motivations and plots and research and worldbuilding and wordcrafting, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed and had missed writing after taking a break from it. Because, despite having spent a shitton of time writing, I did not actually think of myself as a writer.

      I’ve been writing stories since I was nine years old, making them up in my head since before that, plenty of those I never published or showed anyone. So maybe I COULD do it on an abandoned island with no contact to humanity and only a typewriter, purely for its own sake. I probably would. But that doesn’t make feedback for the stories I DID publish any less important, any less helpful in getting me to continue writing.

      August 4, 2016
      |Reply
  23. Victoriana
    Victoriana

    Rating systems and emails/letters to patients are becoming increasingly common in healthcare, the field I work in, too. Patients are sent “please rate this provider” or “please rate your last visit” forms via emails, texts, and regular mail for anything from physician consults to physical therapy sessions.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • Anon123
      Anon123

      That sounds obnoxious. Maybe you should start sending them copies of other people’s Yelp reviews instead. 😛

      August 3, 2016
      |Reply
      • Victoriana
        Victoriana

        Yeah it is pretty obnoxious of hospitals/clinics to do that, and it only seems to be getting worse. I definitely find it annoying as a patient. I get intrusive texts saying “please rate the clinician you saw on so and so date on a scale of 1 to 10.” Lol maybe I should send them Yelp reviews.

        August 3, 2016
        |Reply
        • Ange
          Ange

          Well I don’t know about the US but in the UK the “Friends and Family Test” is a metric that NHS hospitals are required to monitor. So for every visit you have you normally get a text asking you if you’d recommend the area you visited to your friends and family. I both work in the NHS and have a couple of chronic health things so I make quite a lot of visits. This one I find minimally annoying because it’s just one text, you text a reply back if you want and if not they don’t chase it up.

          August 4, 2016
          |Reply
          • I’ve started getting this with my optician, and I have two appointments there next week so I’m expecting “How you like me now? How about now? And now?” text messages.

            I bought a new phone this week and I’ve been getting text messages from the mobile phone provider asking me to rate my visit to their shop. I mean, what the hell am I meant to say? “I went in, and bought a phone. Job done.”

            Just do your feckin’ job, man, and leave me alone! 😉

            August 4, 2016
  24. Lucia
    Lucia

    Maybe I’m just super bad/uninspired at reviewing, but I’ll usually only review things I absolutely hated (or loved, but that’s pretty rare and those reviews are mostly just READ IT IT’S GOOD). I usually leave a really on Goodreads, but nobody’s going to gain any valuable insight from “It was okay I guess”. I’ll tell everyone IRL about books I enjoyed (or hated) and I’ll sometimes tweet about them, but the actual reviews I write are basically just as many reasons why I hated the book as I can fit into the character limit.
    I’m okay with reviews on eBay since the character limit won’t allow more than “everything went okay” and the number of (positive) reviews a private seller has does influence my decision whether to buy from them, but I *hate* getting these emails from amazon that ask me to review anything and everything I buy. They’re not going to make me want to leave a review, they just piss me off. I already spent money on the book, and if I do review, I like to do it thoroughly with quotes from the book to back up my points; I spent almost four hours reviewing a book the other day because I tried to really explain what bothered me and why (because that’s something I look for in reviews from others – why did/didn’t they like it? Was it the plot? The writing? Some kind of bullshit moral issues because the book had GAYS in it OMG think of the CHILDREN?) and I basically want through everything I’d highlighted and explained why that was an issue for me (am I the only one who thinks it’s creepy rather than romantic for a character to walk into the bathroom and start masturbating while the other character is taking a bath?). I’m living off my semi-orphan’s pension at the moment and don’t have a job, but if I did, I could have made almost 35€ in that time (on minimum wage). So, yeah, if I’m going to spend my time writing a review, it’s because I have something I want to say and not because I got ninety zillion emails reminding me to review it.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • Lucia
      Lucia

      (Also, can you believe how long that comment got? Now imagine me writing a review…)

      August 3, 2016
      |Reply
  25. Anon123
    Anon123

    On that third graphic, the “Care and Feeding” list, why on Earth are there *five* steps after “buy the book”???

    As a reader and a writer who makes a living from my work, all I care about is the monetary transaction. I don’t want to be pressured to do all that BS as a reader (see also: charities nagging me to do sh** on Twitter when I don’t even have a Twitter account). And as a writer, if you bought my work, then Yahtzee for me. I don’t need anything more, tyvm.

    “Since when do readers need to worry about helping us overcome Amazon’s arcane algorithms?”

    Yeah, really. I think the real culprit here is not authors, but Amazon pushing some new BS down our throats. I bet they’re the ones offering up these stupid graphics and encouraging their use. Some writers are going to buy into it because it *seems* semi-legit, but ultimately, I blame Amazon. For everything. Categorically. Even when I don’t know for sure how it benefits them directly, just because.

    August 3, 2016
    |Reply
  26. the-great-dragon
    the-great-dragon

    The only thing that actually bothers me about this is that I don’t think authors in general should be looking at their reviews. I know that isn’t what the images are saying, but I think it’s a slippery slope from begging for reviews to reading them. And when you have stories of authors stalking people over negative reviews, I’m not sure any of this is a good idea.

    There are also a lot of professional critics who are paid to review books (from my understanding) so it does seem like people are being asked to do for free a job that someone more qualified was already paid to do.

    August 4, 2016
    |Reply
  27. Carolina West
    Carolina West

    I read a lot of fanfic, but I hardly ever leave reviews because, most of the time, it’s hard to come up with anything to say about the stories, good or bad. That and, as someone mentioned above, you really never know how an author might react if you so much as allude to a mention of something you didn’t like. A girl I used to babysit was actually reduced to tears once because someone posted an all-caps rant about how much her story sucked, which was the only really negative review she got on that one. (I also may or may not have guilt-tripped the guy later by saying he’d just made an eight-year-old cancer patient cry, but at least I got him to calm down and apologize for being an ass about it.)
    And while we’re on the subject of things that piss off readers, can I say I feel the same way about the people who just list random aspects from their story (i.e. lemon, gore, cursing, etc.) and/or put “don’t like, don’t read” in their descriptions? That limited bit of space is supposed to be for a summary, something to get people interested in the story in the first place. Putting that phrase anywhere in a description just, to me, makes the author sound petty and immature, and just listing things like that makes me think they didn’t really care enough or were too lazy to write an actual summary. I know it can be hard, I’ve been writing for years and I still have trouble with it, but come on!

    August 4, 2016
    |Reply
    • the-great-dragon
      the-great-dragon

      I actually have sympathy for the random listing because of ye ol’ fanfiction.net. It was (is?) super common there. And in some of the old, now no longer active, sites. Like Angelfire or Fiction/Diagon Alley. It was big to warn for lemons and cursing, because it was mostly HP fanfic, and that was widely regarded as a children’s series.

      (Sorry if I’m telling you something you already know. I either sound ancient or patronizing.)

      August 4, 2016
      |Reply
    • Hekateras
      Hekateras

      Mmm, this. I guess this is sort of my own little ‘don’t do this, ever’. When fanfic authors write something deprecating in the short line of space where their fic summary goes, I have in the past used it as a kind of Litmus test for whether it’s even worth clicking. If you can’t write a good summary, your fic is usually not worth looking at to me, unfortunately. I wish more people knew how much they’re shooting themselves in the foot with ‘summaries’ like that.

      August 4, 2016
      |Reply
  28. Katsuro Ricksand
    Katsuro Ricksand

    I’d like to hear y’all’s opinion about something that happened to me a while back. I read a book, and enjoyed it, and wrote the writer to tell her so. She thanked me for the nice email, and asked me to write her a positive Amazon review. I said “Sure,” and she said “Thank you so much!”

    Would you say that was rude of her to ask or not?

    August 4, 2016
    |Reply
    • Tez Miller
      Tez Miller

      Yes. She should’ve just thanked you for the nice email, and not asked the question. (But if you were happy to write a positive Amazon review of it, then it doesn’t really matter what we think about her request 😉 )

      August 4, 2016
      |Reply
      • Katsuro Ricksand
        Katsuro Ricksand

        Truth is, I was gonna write it, but then I realized that I would give the book three stars, which is good but not great. And since the average score at that point was higher than three stars, my review would actually lower the overall score, which I don’t think the writer would have wanted. So I decided to just skip it.

        August 4, 2016
        |Reply
    • Marvel
      Marvel

      I think it heavily depends on how she asked. I wouldn’t mind something like this:

      “Actually, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind reviewing the book on Amazon? I think some of the things you’ve said here would really encourage other readers to give it a try.”

      August 4, 2016
      |Reply
  29. Nocturnal Queen
    Nocturnal Queen

    I get a little bit sceptical when I see authors who constantly beg for reviews. To me, it says that people were uninterested in the book and didn’t care to review it or that the book is bad and has mostly gotten bad reviews so the author is begging for new, good ones. But that is just me and maybe I am judgemental.

    Sorry if I made any grammatical mistakes. English is not my first language.

    August 4, 2016
    |Reply
  30. The only thing an author is “owed” for their work is financial payment, if they choose to charge for it.

    A review, thanks, praise? Nope, nope, nope.

    A book might be your baby, but to readers? It’s a product. If you want praise, write a praiseworthy book that people want to talk about, rather than extorting such from readers with emotional blackmail.

    If anyone thinks I’m being too harsh, my attitude is the result of SO MANY authors touting for reviews online. I used to be a member of a website where it was standard to “review swap”. To 5-star book on Amazon. To flood negative reviews with thumbs down. I spoke up about it and was told I was in the wrong because “Negative reviews can ruin an author’s career.” My suggestion that if you get a bad review, maybe your writing isn’t that great, was met with…well, it wasn’t met with cheers and thanks, put it that way. So I declined to sign in or contribute to that site any longer. I’m not into backslapping and review circle-jerks.

    I’ll speak about books I love because the author wrote a book that made me want to discuss it. Even if Wally Lamb himself appeared on my doorstep begging for a 5-star review on Amazon, he wouldn’t get it. I put my heart and soul into my books but I realise the reader doesn’t give a damn about that. They want to be entertained, end of story. That’s all I owe them, and all they owe me is royalties. Once that exchange is done, transaction over, be on your way.

    If someone whores for a review online maybe we should start invoicing them, because they’re basically asking for our time for free. Or perhaps, if an author expects you to give up your time to write a review for nothing, they should write books for nothing?

    If you think about it, it’s incredibly arrogant for someone to sit down and put a story on paper and think, “Other people should read this.” It takes a certain type of confidence to believe that what you have to say, other people should listen to. If someone gives a book their time (and money!!), that’s MORE than enough. I’m incredibly grateful if someone thinks my work is worth their time. I don’t need them to wank off my ego at the same time.

    August 4, 2016
    |Reply
    • Hekateras
      Hekateras

      “If you think about it, it’s incredibly arrogant for someone to sit down and put a story on paper and think, “Other people should read this.” ”

      …So it’s arrogant to publish stories? That’s what you’re saying? Because I’m pretty sure nobody who’s ever published a story has thought that other people SHOULDN’T read it. If they thought that, they wouldn’t be publishing. You publish – you show it to a friend, to an audience, you mail it to the editor – because you want people to read it. Because you want to give them the option to read it. Because you’re going by the assumption that it’s something they might like to read, yes. I don’t see it as arrogant. I see it as having a modicum of healthy self-esteem regarding your craft.

      August 5, 2016
      |Reply
      • Katsuro Ricksand
        Katsuro Ricksand

        To be fair, that kind of self-esteem is only healthy if what you’ve written actually is good. I read Modelland by Tyra Banks a while ago. It’s the worst book I’ve read, but Tyra still looked at it and thought “This is good enough to publish!”

        August 5, 2016
        |Reply
        • Lucia
          Lucia

          Are you the ultimate judge of what constitutes good (enough) writing, then?

          There are very few, if any, books that get 100% bad reviews. For every book, there’s at least one person who enjoys it, and either way, you’ll never know if you don’t publish it (besides, with traditional publishing, there will be editors and so forth, so by the time it gets published, a few people besides the author will have read it and decided it was good enough). There is, of course, a point where self-confidence turns into delusion, but generally, bring proud of something you worked hard for, and being convinced of its quality, is healthy.

          August 5, 2016
          |Reply
          • Katsuro Ricksand
            Katsuro Ricksand

            “Are you the ultimate judge of what constitutes good (enough) writing, then?”
            I’d say all readers (including me) are. Who could be more qualified to say if something is worth checking out than the actual readers?

            “For every book, there’s at least one person who enjoys it, and either way, you’ll never know if you don’t publish it” Yeah, but by this logic we should publish pretty much every book ever.

            August 5, 2016
          • Hekateras
            Hekateras

            “To be fair, that kind of self-esteem is only healthy if what you’ve written actually is good.”

            I don’t agree. I don’t see it as unhealthy to, *regardless* of your writing skill, go by the assumption that your book is something people MIGHT like to read. Might. As in, possibly. Maybe, maybe not. But if you don’t publish, you’ll never find out.

            And since it is impossible for the author to judge whether their book satisfies the subjective and uncertain criteria of what makes a book “good”, does it really matter?

            I see the label “good” as not a statement of quality, but of statistics. If a book is “good”, then it means most (or enough) people who read it liked it, and therefore there’s a good chance you’ll like it too. That’s all that means. There are certain popular books and TV shows I personally consider myself to be absolute rubbish (The 50Shades series, the Inheritance/Eragon series, Game of Thrones), but I’ve argued with enough, far too many people who adore these works, see them as magical, treat them with the same devotion and reverence as I treat my favourite books with. Without trying to get into the dubious and speculation-filled realm of trying to discredit their REASONS for liking them, I cannot in all consciousness claim that my opinion on those works goes above theirs. I’d really like to, but I can’t.

            August 5, 2016
  31. I saw that meme on some author’s FB page and I remember my blood pressure elevating.

    Here’s the thing about writing a review, for me at least, I don’t do it FOR the author; I do it for the reader(s). Sure there is something about the book that rouses me enough to actually start typing but consider the author? No, no. I “considered” the author with my money.

    I think I ranted on my blog about some author that laid out a very, very detailed set of actions for those who bought her book. It entailed posting their every book-related action online at every social media site possible. Oh no. Oh, hell no.

    I bought the book, now if you want me to read your next book then this one had better be well written and professionally polished and you need to leave me alone so I can earn my book spending money because if I HAVE to spend my time flogging your book all over the internet it will be the one and only book of yours I will ever read.

    I guess it comes down to this: why isn’t the reader’s time as valuable as the writer’s?

    August 5, 2016
    |Reply
  32. Oatmeal is Yummy
    Oatmeal is Yummy

    Usually I’m on board with you Jen, but I can see both sides of the issue and while I agree that there’s definitely something wrong with guilt-tripping someone into reviewing a purchase, a polite “let us know what you think,” has never bothered me very much.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m kind of a chatterbox who doesn’t mind airing my opinion on things, but it seems like a generally harmless request, especially because I use reviews to help decide if a book is worth buying. I like to go browsing through what other people have said before I invest my time and money into a book, (nothing sucks more than blowing money and time on a terrible book.) Reviews can be helpful tools in helping authors learn their audience, and also in improving their next piece.

    It’s hard to judge authors for requesting reviews because they’re like anyone else trying to make money in a very competitive industry. While they shouldn’t beg, harass, or guilt trip, reminding a reader that a review can help an author out doesn’t seem that unacceptable to me because there’s no obligation, just if you feel so inclined you can take some time to just write a review. It’s the kind of thing I’d feel good doing, especially if it was a book I liked.

    I can understand if this request makes you uncomfortable, and turns you off from the reader, but I don’t think it’s a feeling all readers have.

    August 5, 2016
    |Reply
    • I’d say if it were occasional, or a one-off, fair enough, but it seems to be multiplying in recent months. So it’s not “This one author pisses me off.” More like, a feeling of being overwhelmed or “FFS, not AGAIN!”

      August 5, 2016
      |Reply
  33. Audra
    Audra

    Someone may have already commented this (I’m incredibly sleep deprived right now), but leaving a review to further support the author seems heavily tied into the whole “Be Nice” campaign where they seem to be saying leave nice reviews to keep the author going. Perhaps regardless of how you actually feel. Because God forbid you leave a negative review and it’s the last straw for the author’s self-esteem or something.

    August 6, 2016
    |Reply
  34. I feel like if I want to review something, I’ll do it. Being asked to do it though? That actually sends me running in the other direction, the same way a hovering shop assistant asking if they can help me with anything makes me turn and leave a shop quick smart. It’s also kind of insulting, because if I’ve gone out and paid to buy a book or watch a movie or whatever, I already AM supporting the artist, so why am I being essentially told that I’m not doing enough?

    August 6, 2016
    |Reply
    • I love your comment so much I want to marry it and have its babies. Except I’ve never wanted children so I’m just going to live in sin with your comment instead. 😀

      August 6, 2016
      |Reply
  35. Siobhan
    Siobhan

    Thank you so much for this post! I know a lot of writers as well, and some of the self-published are awful for doing this. Once or twice I can forgive, but I see this stuff regularly.

    It’s a dangerous practice though, because I write reviews for one of two reasons: I loved it, and consider it a piece that changed my life (such as Julie Mayhew’s The Big Lie, which I read last year and would recommend to anyone. An alternative history piece set in 2014 about a bisexual ice-skating Nazi in German-occupied England. It’s fantastic) or it’s a huge piece of shit and my inner critic wouldn’t shut up the entire time (sad to say, The Cursed Child falls into this latter category). I’m not afraid to point out the mistakes, even if you’re a friend: if it’s published, these should already have been addressed and ironed out. If you ignored your editor, that’s on you, not your readers.

    I write as well, and do post on AO3. I don’t get many reviews, mainly just kudos or bookmarks, but as much as I would love a lot of reviews, I’d rather have one that said something other than ‘it’s great’. I want to learn and improve. The comments I do get mean a lot because I know there’s something constructive there. And that should be what these authors want, if they want reviews they need to write something to invoke a reaction. Begging won’t necessarily get the reaction they want.

    August 7, 2016
    |Reply
  36. Myst
    Myst

    I only leave a review typically if a product/service was *exceptional* or *sub par*. Usually it’s I went in, bought whatever and left, I didn’t interact with any employee, the location wasn’t a huge mess. Even most books I read tend to get 3 star ratings since they didn’t “wow” me with exceptional/crap content.

    On the other hand, I do read reviews to see if a product/service/place is good or crap. So leaving a review that a product was great/horrid *is* helpful. But some reviews are *crap* and look fake. If you can’t say why you loved a product/service I’m inclined to think you were paid to leave a good review and ignore it. If all the 5 star reviews are detailed about why product/service are great then yea they would be valid.

    I think companies really should look at the content of feedback they get…if they’re getting generic feedback, *quit asking for it!*. If you get feedback that a product/service was exceptional (with details why), reward the person for going above/beyond. If a service was crap, work to fix the problem. If a service/person is repeatedly getting crap reviews, then let them go. No review = average/expected level of satisfaction.

    I ordered pizza the other day. They said 35 minutes. 70 minutes after placing the order I ended up going to the pizza place to ask where was the pizza? It hadn’t even gone out for delivery yet…so they ended up giving it to me free. What they could’ve done better was call me back to say they were running behind and it would be slightly longer to get our order. I’ll still use them as their quality is good and this isn’t normal behaviour for that location. I probably should leave a review since they turned a neg to a pos, but one gets busy and more important things come up.

    I didn’t do a website review, but I did call a grocery store up once when a checkout clerk tried to put a carton of eggs in the same bag as a package of raw pork. That wasn’t a review worthy issue, it was a food safety education issue with one employee. Although the manager on the phone didn’t sound all that apologetic about the experience I had.

    And on the note of authors and reviews, any author who degrades a review of less than 5 stars goes on a shit list for me. Their ego’s seem to have grown to the point that they believe they can’t write a bad book and try to find a reason to degrade the 1-2 star reviews. Occasionally a book you wrote isn’t a readers cup of tea, or the blurb doesn’t match the story inside the book. Or you wrote a *really* bad story, including the inability to use proper grammar/punctuation/keep a character’s name straight.

    There are (at least) 2 authors who I read (and don’t buy!) who do this. One thinks her books are “90% gold” and wrote a “Dear Negative Reader” blog, the other has a book coming out this winter and the blurb alone sounds like they were high on something when they wrote the story – Vampires and Atlantis have been done before, but Atlantis is usually worked into the story from the beginning, not randomly in book 20. The only reason I keep reading them is to see how much worse they can get…and sadly it gets worse every time. I may end up dropping the Atlantis author altogether.

    August 12, 2016
    |Reply
    • John Doe
      John Doe

      So you said ‘tried to’ which makes me think you stopped them. So you called about an averted issue? I can understand if it was a raw vegetable but most people actually cook their eggs.

      April 20, 2017
      |Reply
  37. goddesstio
    goddesstio

    I also agree and disagree. Manipulative posts, the “Review or the story gets it” kind, are not good. Sometimes a reminder to review things is the push I need, though. I generally only review if something is really good or really bad, but a lot of the things that need it are the in-between products. And I also only review if I have something better to say than “I like this” or “This was meh”. Because I feel like that doesn’t help anyone. But I don’t see anything wrong with an author saying “Hey, I’d appreciate it if you reviewed my books” because yeah, I bet they would appreciate it. And it seems like everyone above is treating those kind of comments with the same weight as “No new book until I hit x reviews” and I don’t think the two are the same at all. One is a no-pressure request and one is blackmail.

    August 16, 2016
    |Reply

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