Do Unto Other Authors: Review A Book

review a book

When you agree to review a book, do you always follow through? Are you loyal to other writers by keeping up your side of the bargain?

Not long ago, I posted a piece on the Funds For Writers Blog about paying writers equitably. Here’s the abbreviated version I posted on Facebook:

“If you are a writer, ask to be paid for your work. If you are asking a writer to appear, pay them. If you read a book, pay for it. If you accept a free book, post a review. Anything else is eroding the careers of writers everywhere.”

I believe I touched a nerve, which is sometimes fun, but it also means I probably waded into a controversial topic that woke people up.

A lot of authors responded with rants about giving away “x” many books and not getting reviews. I can relate. I give away 100 books leading up to a new release, and less than 50 percent of the recipients stay true to their promise of a review. I get it, it’s difficult to read and review a book with your busy schedule, but it’s wrong to agree to review and not follow through. I’m always amazed by the people who DO follow through, and pained by the ones who do not.

That said, my point was really that, as writers, we tend to cannibalize our own. When you agree to act as a beta reader or reviewer, do you always follow through? As badly as we crave reviews for our own work, are we loyal to other writers by keeping up our side of the bargain?

When you receive a book, you can pay for it or review it. It’s as simple as that. If you find the hours to read a fellow author’s book, you can spare 15 minutes to review it.

What about all those generous souls giving away their books for free? My policy is to only take a free book if I intend to review it. Frankly, I prefer to pay for my books, because I prefer that people pay for mine. I also refuse to download a free book, preferring to at least pay $1.99 or more.

Yes, I give books away with the clear message that they are copies for review. And I follow up with these readers, against the advice of many in the industry. My system goes like this:

  1. I solicit reviewers via newsletter and social media.
  2. I create a list of reviewers and their contact information.
  3. I send my book to these reviewers.
  4. A month later, I send an email or postcard asking if they received the book. I make no mention of a review.
  5. After another month, I send a second email/postcard asking if they enjoyed the book. Again, no mention of a review.

That’s it – no harassment. After a couple of months, you have the list of names of people who reviewed your work. You love these people, and you won’t mind asking them to review again in the future. They have proven they will follow through. You also know those who have not reviewed, and to not ask again.

With that frustration in mind: pay for books. If you receive one for free, feel highly obligated to review it. It’s a simple etiquette. It’s writers honoring writers.


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  1. I write books and review books. My thing is that I had been out of work for a while and also had an issue with going to our local library. I had developed the penchant for not wanting to stay there. So I started to review books and got a free copy. When I was working I would pay but most authors will send you a free copy in exchange for a review. Some will pay for it as well. I know that I have some books that are way overdue for reviews but I do intend to review them and plan to post them as well.

  2. I have reviewed books across all genres. I always, always lived up to my end and did the reviews. I love to read and read all the time. Sometimes I got to keep the books sometimes I was even asked for them back. Would love to get back into doing it again

    • Not too many ask for the books back (that I know of), but many would easily give you a free book in exchange for a review. Just start being seen on Facebook pages or blog posts by the authors you are interested in. Reviewers are practically worshipped!

  3. I totally agree and appreciate your post. I ALWAYS write a review and read several books a month. I interview authors on my show twice a week and promote them as well as write a review. I, too, am an author and have given away many books with the promise of a review. Unfortunately, not many do what they promised.

    • It is sad that some do not follow through, but if I receive a free book…a review is guaranteed. Unless it’s a bad review, then I email the author and explain why. Authors are starving for feedback.

  4. Thanks for such good advice. It should be obvious that to reciprocate is simply good manners. I,too, have been disappointed by an inconsiderate individual but most people have following through much to my delight! Susan O’Neill, author of LIFE SONG: AN IRISH ODYSSEY

  5. I always review every book I read. However, I’ve discovered that those beta readers who promise to review my books almost never do. Consequently I quit sending to them. I got the feeling of being ripped off. They received a free book and that’s it. Another thing I found is when I downloaded a book of a beta reader’s to review, it wasn’t finished and was poorly written. I had submitted my best work. So, no, as much as I want reviews–and I do–I’ve given up on beta readers. Perhaps not forever.

  6. I live to leave reviews. I have a daughter with extreme medical problems so if I do not leave A review chances are there was an emergency. I feel awful. I know this has happened at least twice. I later read the books and reviewed them but for me a review is a thank you. Starting last year I started reviewing almost all the books I read free or not. Even books I pick up at garage sales and thrift stores.

  7. I went through the time and expense of sending books to a Goodreads selection of readers. Nada, zip. Goodreads (I’ll say) cautions authors not to follow up with the readers.

    Total and complete waste of money and time. Bunch of book groupies

  8. Sometimes it takes a while, but I review the books I read… unless they are a one star, then I prefer to write to the author.
    Sadly, some people write to me saying how much they enjoyed the book and looking forward to the next one… but put it in the form of a review – no. That seems to be asking too much.
    Amazon made the first book in my series free, they did not tell me why, but I guess they eventually price-matched Smashwords. I checked the downloads. There were almost 2,000. I have not noticed one extra review. Since I do not have addresses, I cannot write and ask if they have read/enjoyed it.
    Books 1 and 4 in the series are Readers’ Favorite Finalist award winners.
    Are reviews worthwhile? I do not know, but I will keep reviewing when I finish books, free or purchased.

    • Reviews are worthwhile, Susan. Placement on Amazon, Goodreads features, even BookBub selection are contingent on reviews. But I’ve learned that free or cheap for some reason gives people permission to NOT leave a review. Thus the need to write this blog post. But also, a lot of people download free and don’t read the book for months or years. It’s just too easy to get it free and there is no obligatory feeling to review. I doubt ten percent of your downloads actually read the book.

  9. I work as an editor and writer and run writing workshops. I enjoy reading new works and reviewing them. And hope to be a voice to get new works out to a wider readership. I would like to continue this work. Contact me if there would be any interest. Many thanks- Laurence (Larry) Carr

  10. I wrote a strong review this summer for a book I had enjoyed by a fellow writer. A couple years ago, I acquired and read an earlier book of his, a good story line but dreadfully written, and I cringed at the idea of suffering through this next sample of his work. The reason I bought his second book is because it deals with naval history of the American Civil War, which I am researching for the historical novel I want to write next. (We have also become friends and he asked me a year ago to be a beta reader for a third work, which I was not in a position to do at the time.) I opened this second book with dread but was delighted to find that he had learned much from his previous work, and this was an engaging read. It could still use some editing (and that’s true for most of us, no matter our level of skill), but his style is vastly improved, his characters well developed, his pacing and chronology tight. I was thrilled that I could write a good review in all honesty for his book.

  11. I have four books listed on amazon. Every time I’ve published one, I have a list of people I sent complimentary copies to…no reviews….no comments. So no more free copies to anyone.

  12. We regularly review books for two Quaker magazines. Roughly 2/3 of the titles are sent to us by the book review editors. The others are our suggestions, sometimes pared with an editor’s request. We may decline an editor’s request if we don’t feel we can write a positive review.

  13. I am a voracious reader and would love to do beta reviews. The author would have to tell me what stage the book was in, in, I.e., beginning, first draft, completely edited, final edit review prior to publishing.
    My favs: anything historical, romance, mystery. Fav authors: Robyn Carr, Nora Roberts, Kristen Higgins, Karen Hawkins, Susan Wiig, Mary Balough, Linda Lael Miller, Nelson DeMille, J.D. Robb, Jeffery Deaver, Isaac Asimov, Sandra Brown, Patricia Cornwell, Tony Hillerman, Robert Parker, Ngaio Marsh… To name just a few, and I know I’ve missed listing more than a couple.
    If someone would like to give me a try, Why not send two or three chapters, let me read and review them to see whether or not I’d be a fit for your needs.
    Love reading the Bookbaby blogs.
    Psuedonym: Kate McKenna

  14. I totally agree. I try to review every book I read, because I want others to review my books. I don’t want to ask others to do something I’m not willing to do myself. My only exception is when I can’t finish a book. Then I don’t think it’s fair to review something I didn’t read entirely. But I also believe in honest reviews. If I have issues with the book, I’ll mention them and try to also add something positive about the story.

    I’m glad you wrote this post. Maybe it’s not something a lot of people think about, but to me as an author, I think it’s very important.

    • Yes, I’m with you, Aurora. I review most books I read, knowing how valuable a review is, however, I’m not into nasty, destructive reviews. If I’ve got nothing good to say, then I don’t review. Constructive criticism is okay to a certain point. Also, it irritates me when reviewers summarise the book. What’s the point in that? In my view, a review is a reaction to a book, not a description of the plot.

  15. Unavoidably, I sometimes commit the sin about which you write. I get ARC and fail to review the work. Please don’t hate! Let me elaborate.

    My intent is to always review every book. I am an author, and feel for those ( particularly independent) writers who seek a fair evaluation of their contribution to the literary codex. I have more than six books read with reviews yet to be written. Time is the problem. There are so many works, and to say something that provides an unbiased and comprehensive image of the text is hard., my blog, does not charge for reviews. Some reviewers have suggested that as a means to carve out more time to write reviews and tend the site instead of the rage of compensative activities that fill my time. Nonetheless, I try to keep my promises. If I say that the book will be reviewed, the notice will eventually be posted. The problem is that sometimes authors become frustrated. They want the review on a certain timeline.

    Anyway, this is a great topic. My message to writers is to not give up on reviewers. Any mention of a book is a worthwhile.

    • Oh, any review is welcomed. Just remember that often an author has an agenda, and they are needing those reviews posted for other collaborations on other sites, blogs, podcasts, appearances, etc.

  16. I have a few books I have read that I didn’t leave a review for. One I was not even able to finish (it was a brick and frankly a pain from the start). Those were self-published and as much as I wanted to leave a review, they were terrible and I felt torn leaving a negative review. They don’t help writers…
    I did pay for them though.

  17. Ms. Clark – I read your article re: following through with a review. I found it very useful BUT I have questions. You say that you find your reviewers through social media and newsletters – how do you choose the people to review your work? I’m going to assume that when you’re asking for a review you are asking the reader to post it on the site they bought the book from or if they send the review to you, what do you do with it? I hope you’ll forgive my naivete, I’ve been writing pretty much all my life and at the ripe old age of 67 am getting ready to publish my first novel so I read articles like yours to learn as much as I can about the work that’s involved ‘after’ a book is published.

    • Sue, we are all naive in some sense or another, so your question is welcomed. The great thing about social media is that you can look at someone’s page, work experience, writing and reading experience and make a judgment call. Over time you learn to cull. Those who’ve offered to review for me in the past, and didn’t, are not allowed the opportunity again.

      But you let them post the review…on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, social media and wherever else they deem suitable. Of course you ask permission to use any snippets of their reviews in your promotion. Good reviews are wonderful for that!

  18. I nearly always leave a review when I read a book. If I think it is poorly written or I can’t finish it, then I don’t review. I find it difficult though when an author has given me a book in anticipation of a review and I find it poorly written. Tricky. I still try and give a positive review as there is always positive aspects usually. Maybe not completely honest. Is that wrong?


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