Reader Request Week 2015 #1: Reviewing Free Books

Emily Guido asked me:

I have a question about Author Drama. For one, I’m an Author, so any help I can get, I would love the advice. What I am dying to know is that if you have a book that you are reading for the pleasure of it, do you, for any reason, review it? Sometimes, the reviews I get are from people who pick up my book on a “Free” download time on Amazon. They say, I didn’t mean to read this book, but… yadda, yadda, yadda.

I do the same also. I pick up free books and even though I was never asked to review, I feel compelled to review them. Sometimes the Author gets upset if my review is not pleasing to them. It puts me in an uncomfortable area.

First off, I think the rules are a little bit different for author-reviewers because you have to deal with your fellow authors but I’ll talk about my experience with the problem.

To answer the question, yes.  Sometimes I download free books off of Amazon and review them.  Usually it’s because I really did enjoy the book and found it surprisingly good so I want to let my readers know about it.  I think that’s part of why authors put their books out for free on sites like Amazon: they think readers will accidentally stumble across them, like them and review them, thereby generating more publicity for their book so they are more likely to pay for subsequent novels.  That explanation makes the most sense to me and it’s one of the more common reasons authors tend to cite for putting their work out there for free.

But what happens when you don’t like a book?

Well, this depends largely on a) your personality and style of blogging and b) the book and author.

To start with a) I’d have to say that if you have a policy of reviewing most of the books you read like I do, feel free to leave a review.  However, this leads to the second part of the problem: the book and the author.  My general policy is that if the author puts one of those “please give me a review” blurbs either in the front or back of their book then it’s perfectly fine to leave a negative review.  If they’re asking for feedback, one-star reviews are feedback and if it’s your honest opinion there’s nothing wrong with writing one.

But if the author does not have an appeal for reviews or some such thing, I’d leave it up to your discretion.  Do you feel comfortable leaving a negative review if it’s not asked for?  I personally do in most situations (there are obviously exceptions) but if you’re not 100% comfortable with that, then don’t.  As I said, there’s nothing wrong with leaving a review, positive or negative, as long as it really is your honest opinion.  Some people feel differently.  Basically, it depends on you.  There is no easy answer to it.

To address the last point in Emily’s question, if the author throws a hissy fit over a negative review, that’s their problem and not yours.  They put their work out there to be read and judged by the public; they should expect to get less than flattering reviews at some point.  Again, as long as it’s your honest opinion about the book and you’re not author bashing, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

So basically?  There is no easy answer.  It really depends on what you’re comfortable with.

3 comments

  1. Rebecca Vance

    If an author doesn’t develop a thick skin, he or she will not last long in the business. While writing their masterpiece, the author can treat it like their child. They nurture it, correct it and when it is finally ready, they release it to the world. Once out in the world, there will be stumbling blocks. Not everyone will like it, some may hate it. The author-parent wants to protect it. But once it is out in the world, it no longer belongs to the author. It belongs to the public. The only remedy is to create another masterpiece. Metaphors aside, I do try to review every book I read. Not every book is to my liking, and I am fair but honest. I’ll give you an example. I love Dean Koontz’s books. His last book, “The City”, I really didn’t care for and it took me a long time to get through it as it was very easy to put down. I reviewed that on Amazon and gave it a two star. Since I do like his work, I will read him again, but that didn’t work for me. Of course I can’t speak for anyone but myself, and I am a newbie, but I think even the one and two stars can be helpful if they are constructive and not destructive. That can help an author improve. If they are not willing to do that, then they should hang up their hat, or expect more of the same. Thanks for a great post! 🙂

    • Carrie Slager

      Couldn’t have said it better myself! It’s what I’ve been trying to get across for years here on The Mad Reviewer.

      As for the Dean Koontz example, I recently had that with Kate Quinn. I loved her Borgia books and I liked Mistress of Rome and Lady of the Eternal City but Daughters of Rome was just awful. It really was not for me but I love her as an author so I still did the tour for Lady of the Eternal City (and loved it!). It’s just that her second book in the Rome series was something I really didn’t care for, much like your experience with The City.

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