Reviewers–Our Lifeblood (Part 2)

In case you haven’t read it, there is a part one article on this subject. I just needed to touch it up a bit and add some more basic information, including this time, what an author might try to avoid, or experience an author/reviewer confrontation.

Just as a recap, and as I noted before, reviewers are PEOPLE on the end of your submission email. Personalize your subs to each individual, follow the guidelines precisely, check out their “About” section and read some of their reviews. Target their genre preference. Ask before sending a review copy. Make no demands, abide by their time constraints, and do NOT expect public reviews of your book just because they’ve asked for a copy. Things happen. Reviewers get ill, have emergencies, or must go on forced hiatus.

Trigger warnings are about your content that might be objectionable. You would know this beforehand by investigating your reviewer. They might be a stalwart Christian, or other denomination, who gives notice of touchy subjects that turn them off. For YA, I have to watch out for sex, drugs, suicide, underage drinking, needless violence and gore and other related topics. Yet again, if you have an erotic romance, it will not sit pretty with a reviewer who prefers sweet romance with HEA endings. Be careful and be up front. List your possible trigger warnings and listen to the opinion of the reviewer. If you have a reviewer who is borderline in reading your book, politely decline. You don’t want to waste their time. If you force the review, you’d better be prepared for any type of rating. Most reviewers don’t pull any punches. You’re getting a reader’s feedback. BTW, reviews are for readers–not for you unless you take notes and realize you can improve your writing by understanding their analysis. What’s not to like about a free sub-editor or proofreader? If you have enough review comments that all state the same problem, then by yiminee, you just might have a major problem!

Try and keep track of the individuals you have sent your submission to. Some require form subs and sub prefer email. I have used six major review sites, and it has been a tedious chore just to keep track of individual reviewers. These persons might be listed in multiple sites and you don’t want to send repeats. It can get very confusing for you if you have sent out hundreds of requests. My sent box serves as a small database, but it does not track the form submissions. If you are unsure of a repeat request, add a disclaimer right up front. Here’s mine:

If this is a repeat review request from me, my sincerest apologies. Shirley’s List, Indie Authors Reviews and Book Siren (among others) have merged their contacts together, and it’s been almost impossible for me to know where everyone has appeared. If I’m a repeat, please just flick and swish and make me go away!

Lots of reviewers answer their emails starting with the oldest and work their way through the list. Others make immediate contact with you. The point is, don’t send reminders unless they state that you can. Usually only one. Personally, I won’t send a follow-up. I don’t have any desire to clog their box anymore than it is. I just move onto the next sub. You are apt to get questions back, and you’ll need to take the time to answer them honestly and accurately. Understand that they are feeling you out as a person, as well as an author.

For gawd’s sake, don’t reply or comment on a review unless you are just being thankful. Your story will get some harsh and, seemingly, personal criticism. Do Not lash back at a reviewer in any forum. You don’t even need to explain your version of the story and how the reader got it all wrong. These other eyes are not yours. They may see things quite differently than you. It’s quite possible that it’s you, not them, who have screwed the pooch. After 15 straight years I broke this rule, but did not lash out. I had to inform the reviewer about a gross inaccuracy that hurt and damaged me so badly, I had to inform her about a cultural tag she took the wrong way. The word “racist” was used as an identifier in her review. I’ve had other mentions that have made me sick to my stomach and have thrown me into a deep depression. These things are going to happen. It comes with the territory. But there is a limit.

With some reviewers there is a slip of the word like a slip of the tongue. I’ve had the following words in my review and they were more than pointed at the story line. They were pointed at me:

Mysogynist, Identity thief, transvestite, plagiarist, racist, fataphobic, woman-hater and other such monikers. They were grossly false and most of my fellow authors knew that right away. I mean, when you’ve been hosed and trashed in a public forum, one of two things or both can happen; either you run away and hide, or you go ballistic. If you lose your temper, calm down and contact the accuser in private email. As an ex-federal police officer with an upstanding record, I won’t stand for personal comments like those. I warn you, you are going to reap a whirlwind of my opinion about what you’ve done. Count on it. It’s reverse honesty. Otherwise, I’m fine with low review scores, even if I have to scratch my head over them.

REVIEWERS: Watch what you are saying. You can’t take those words back once they hit the social media universe. They are cemented in time and place. Go ahead and rant, but do it with a little sensitivity and humor. It’s more digestible that way. Never, ever insult or humiliate an author with dangerous words or profanity.

AUTHORS: Betcha didn’t know that even the long-time seasoned reviewers are nervous and anxious about how their writing will be accepted. They are responsible to a reading public. They get the jitters too. You’re both getting the jitters. Hopefully, and most of the time, things work out great for both of you. When there’s lots of comments, it means the review was exceptional and really nailed it. That’s great for the author too. It leads to sales clicks. ETA: don’t ask the reviewer to buy your book. Are you nuts? They might want you to gift them a copy, and that’s really to your advantage because it boosts rank and earns royalties.

Some of your reviewers will be members of, or have access to, Amazon, B &N, Kobo, Apple, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, FB, Twitter, specialized groups and the like. You’re talking about a full boat here. Some may have less contacts or only a few. If you are “wide” which means your book is listed with multiple retailers, mention this in your request letter. They will respond with yeses or nos regarding which sites they can list you in. Don’t insist that they join these groups just to perk up your numbers. They follow their own policies and do what works for them.

Gosh, dang it. I think I’ve run out of words. I know I’ve missed something again but I’m agog at knowing what it is. If it takes a part 3, I’ll pitch out another article.

So I’ll say, let me red-shift out of here!

ETA: I just remembered. It’s up to you, dear author, on how many paperback copies you want to send out. You can really hit the financial skids in doing this. You’ll have to say, NO MORE. There is one country in particular that demands most of the paperback copies. I won’t name them. But I can see tiny book stores sprouting up all over their countryside when they’ve accumulated massive paper and hardback copies of books.

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