I'm an editor for indie authors. As such, I recognize how difficult it is for some of them to get book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so I'm careful to always leave a review when I read a book. If it's great, of course I want others to enjoy it, and if it's terrible, I want to warn people to save their money and time.
Most of my reviews tend to be favorable because I have a general idea of what I'm picking up before I start, either from friends' recommendations or my own pre-purchase research. Even if a book is cheapie-cheap, I'll still read the negative reviews to see if they mention anything that's important to me. I don't usually bother reading very many positive reviews, partly because so many reviewers include spoilers without realizing it, and partly because I expect a book to be good. If someone thinks it's not good, I want to know why.
People on Goodreads ask for reviewers all the time. This is a dubious practice, and "officially" there is to be no review swapping (because those boil down to give-me-five-stars-and-I'll-give-you-five-stars) but still . . . authors are constantly pimping a free e-copy if someone—anyone!—will pleasepleasepleaseprettyplease review their book. (Author Gisela Hausmann has a great post, "What Authors Can Learn from Car Salesmen," that gives some great tips on how to not beg/sound desperate.)
So when people ask for reviews on GR . . . if I haven't offered (and I'm obviously very active there) then I am not interested. Why am I not interested? After all, I do love reading and I always review what I read.
Well, in a few words, here's why. By asking me to review your book, you are putting me in the position of either looking like a jerk by saying no because I:
- don't have time
- saw the reviews and know I won't enjoy it
- know from experience that most who ask on random forums have books with numerous issues, and I will be put into the uncomfortable position of saying it out loud
Or I say yes to be polite and then am forced—because I won't say yes and then not do it—to read and pay attention to details I might otherwise not. It's weird . . . I naturally remember details of books I've chosen to read, but have to concentrate on books not of my own choosing. Perhaps it comes from the occasional assigned reading at my day job, where we are expected to discuss what we've read. If I have to read a book someone's asked me to read, I read it as an editor, and can't shut that off. This is an odd curse, but that's what I deal with.
Dear stranger, basically you are asking me to work for you without being paid for it, and I have wasted a lot of time and energy doing things like this that I later regret. As a freelancer, I do a fair number of free evaluations for writers, and if they hire me, that's great, but if they don't, it's hours put in that don't pay off. It happens, and it's part of the free eval package.
Those ones I don't mind nearly as much, except for these stats—the ones who don't hire me are typically broken down into these portions: 10% are people who simply choose someone else—a better fit, for example, of a British editor for a UK writer, or those who are truly shopping around and looking for the best price, fit, and timing on the calendar—and the other 90% are people whose manuscripts are nowhere near ready for editing, much less publishing.
Those 90% still get the same thorough editing eval as anyone else, because I believe in being fair, and I want to be as thorough in my explanation as possible when I'm telling someone their book is not ready for editing. Perhaps I could be mean about it and simply tell them it's not ready, but if they don't know why, then it may never be ready. Or they'll find an unscrupulous editor who will take their money, fix misspellings and typos, and never tell them how bad the overall writing actually is.
Unfortunately, in my experience, many of the "read my book for review" people are still in the second-draft phase and don't know it because they've already gone and published. So yes, I'm being asked do work for them for free, even if they're not aware of it. I even added a (hopefully polite) "please don't ask me to read your book" portion to my Goodreads profile, because I get a slow-but-steady flow of requests that wax and wane around the timing of my posted reviews, and I always feel so uncomfortable when answering. I hate to be rude, but on the other hand, they're not exactly being polite by asking a stranger to do them a favor when there's been no previous relationship.
What are your thoughts on the "please read my book" crowd? I'm not looking for everyone to necessarily agree with me, but would genuinely enjoy your input on this one.
If you like what you're reading, I invite you to fill out the "Follow by Email" widget in the column on the right. You'll get my amazing insights right in your inbox! How thrilling is that? Or you can follow me on Instagram (as easyreaderediting) for completely different content—check out all that stuff on the upper right of my page where the Instagram feed is scrolling merrily along. I also have an Easy Reader Editing Facebook page I'd love for you to like and follow. I'm on Google+ as myself (Lynda Dietz) and my "follow" badge is . . . you guessed it, right there in the right-hand column for you to click. I try to share different things in each place so life doesn't get predictable and boring, and you never know what you'll find—or whether I'll be sharing YOUR posts, too.