Should Indie Authors Write Book Reviews?

Aug 2, 2013 by

Part of being an indie author is being an active participant in the indie author community. There is no doubt that a huge part of indie author success is having indie author support. However, you need to be cautious about how you go about supporting your fellow authors. Be careful how you brand yourself online and remember that people are human. An honest opinion may come back to bite you. Here are three things to consider before you decide to review other authors.

 

Are you an author or a book reviewer?

 

If part of your plan to build your online author brand is to review books, you might want to rethink that. Brand yourself as a writer and author first. Yes, all writers should be book nerds, but it might be jarring to your online following if you go from posting mostly book reviews to promotions for your own work. Consider hosting book giveaways or author interviews instead of offering to review books. According to a recent Gallup poll, there are a gazillion book blogs out there. That’s an official number. As such, indie authors can find book reviewers. Offer something else.

 

Word of mouth is powerful.

 

If you want to review books so that authors will return the favor, get another strategy. I’m not saying the favor won’t be returned, just that there is no guarantee. And think about it. Do you really want reviews from other writers, whose work you’ve reviewed? And can you guarantee a positive review? Let’s be honest, you might hate the book. Your options are now to either give an honest opinion, or lie so that your book isn’t bashed by an author or his following. Even if you don’t ask for a review from an author you criticized, you never know who’s reading your review. Word of mouth is a power force, and you might piss off someone you had no idea was connected to that author.

 

Your time is valuable.

 

Book reviewing is a time-consuming endeavor. Even if you read fast, you still need time for writing, networking, and promoting your own work. If you’re most indie authors, you also have a day job. Not to mention the time you allot to friends and family. As soon as you brand yourself a book reviewer and set up a review policy on your site, e-mails from authors will eat your inbox. If you’re still determined to be a book reviewer, try setting a limit of books you have time to review per month. Make sure your policy states that you will only reply to requests that interest you.

 

I personally only review indie authors whose work I am familiar with or authors suggested to me by writers I know. Then, I only review it if I can say something positive like, “This novel is a religious experience!” I am more than supportive of the indie community but realize people are human, and why promote a book in a negative light when you don’t have to?

 

 

Do you think authors should post negative reviews?

 

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  • Dariel Raye

    I totally agree with you, Natasha. I only do a few reviews per month, and only read books I really enjoy; thus, I stay away from negative reviews as much as possible. Personally, I don’t think it’s helpful to post negative reviews. No matter how well we (authors) know their subjective nature, we are indeed still human, and hurtful critiques can be damaging not only to sales, but to relationships.

    • natashalarry

      Yes! They can be hurtful to relationships. I think relationships are very important in the indie publishing game. Great point!

  • Anne R. Allen

    Great advice. A book reviewer is essentially a critic. It’s great training if you want to be an agent or editor–but for an author, not so much. So if you’re primarily an author, do review a few books in your genre that you love, and offer author interviews or spotlights. But making enemies is not what you want to do when you’re starting out. You need all the friends you can get. And be wary of trading reviews. It can get you thrown off Amazon and even on your own blogs, it can look suspicious. But interviews and spotlights are great to trade. Excellent post

    • natashalarry

      Hi Anne. You make great points about training to be an editor or agent. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  • http://www.rainyofthedark.com/ Rainy Kaye

    Great post, Natasha =) As you know, this is a topic I’ve been fighting with for a few years now. I recently settled on posting a review that doesn’t include a star-ranking so there can’t be any tit-for-tat, keeping it to my blog only to circumvent some of the “community” drama, not posting anything I can’t say at least 3 nice things about, and only reviewing books I was going to read anyway. No requests. I also don’t accept free copies anymore. If I’m interested enough to read it, then I’m going buy it too (disclaimer: nothing wrong with reviewers who do accept free copies though!). When I start releasing my own work early next year, I want any reviews and rankings to be on based on the book, not my contributions–for better or worse.