Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Mention book reviews to authors and you’ll surely get a reaction. We need them to sell our books. (Good ones) We love them. (Five stars? Wow!) We hate them. (Say what? You think my baby is ugly?) We either ignore them or read them obsessively.

Let’s see what the following six authors have to say about reviews. Trish Jensen, Donnell Bell, Kathryn Magendie, Alicia Rasley,Elizabeth Sinclair and me. Between us, we have over fifty books in print and more on the way. If you want to know more about my guests, click on their names and you’ll find links to their websites.

Do you read your book reviews?

Trish Jensen: I do. Not constantly, but occasionally I’ll look with eyes half shut. I usually do this when I get a Google alert about a review. Amazon and B&N don’t show up in Google alerts, so I don’t follow them regularly.

Kathryn Magendie: I did when Tender Graces came out. But I was wearing myself out thinking I had to thank everyone who reviewed it. I exhausted myself and was having trouble writing the next book. My editor finally said, “Kat, stop it! You’ll make yourself insane and, one day, you will come across a review that will rip out your heart. Just write the next book and don’t worry about the rest.” The best advice EVER!
Alicia Rasley: Obsessively. Most of mine, however, are customer reviews on the bookstore sites.
Elizabeth Sinclair: Yes.

Marilee Brothers: Yes, unless they start out, “Here’s what I hate about this book . . .”

 Do you ever respond to them?

Jensen: Yes. Not all, of course. But if someone really touches me, I’ll respond. I’ve only answered a couple of negative reviews, but it’s usually fairly short. “Ouch.” There’s no point in arguing or asking WHY? Especially when the review attacks me as an author rather than the book. They’ve made up their minds and I don’t want to get sucked into their negative mindsets.

Magendie:  Back then, I would often thank the reviewer, until I began to feel as if I were intruding. I worried reviewers may not feel they could be as honest if they felt I was “lurking around.” But, I’ve been on both sides. Before I became co-publishing editor for the Rose & Thorn Journal, I used to review books for them and once had an author strongly defend a comment I made about her book. I didn’t know how to respond, even though I’d been honest. A caveat: I no longer review books unless I do so on Amazon and I can be completely positive. Now that I’ve been published, I am much more understanding of the process and blood, sweat and tears that go into this business.

Rasley: Blogger/book review sites: Yes, I send a thank you. Customer reviews: No, because I don't want them to feel crowded. But if they email me to say they reviewed a book, I send them a thank you note.

Sinclair: Yes.

Brothers: Yes.

If so, do you have a standard reply such as, ‘Thank you for taking the time to read and review my book …etc.”

Jensen: If it’s a well thought out review, I’ll thank them. If the review focuses on one aspect of the book that colors their thoughts about the book as a whole, or the reviewer makes a disparaging remark about me as an author, then it’s just not worth it.

Magendie: I was polite and kind to any reviewer, even if they had an “if only she  . . .” or “I wish she  . . .” I receive reader mail sometimes that asks, “How come?” or “Why did you?” and I’m always positive and grateful someone is discussing my books. Not everyone will love my word and I shouldn’t expect that.

Rasley: Yes, that’s just what I say, and end with a link to another book or a blog post or something of mine.

Sinclair: Yes, this is the wording I use for those reviews that are . . .less than stellar. For the ones that are truly complimentary, I get more specific. One thing I never do (although the temptation is always there) to argue with the reviewer. They’ve had their say and for me to attack them serves no productive purpose.

Brothers: If the reviewer has a blog, I make an effort to leave a “Thank you for reviewing my book” comment. Several years ago, I did challenge a reviewer who gleefully accused me of plagiarizing a book I hadn’t read. She apologized but the review was never removed.

Any advice for reviewers?

Donnell Bell: I’ve received a couple of zingers, but thanks to contests, I’ve developed a tough skin, and reviews are just one person’s opinion. However, when they turn personal, I am Pollyanna enough to be appalled. I read a review of a New York/USA Today Bestselling author and was at a loss why some reviewers feel, because the author is popular, it gives them the right to demean and make a personal attack. One reviewer wrote, “Readers, don’t bother. There, I’ve done my good deed for the day." In my opinion, that person just wasted his time and mine.

Jensen: Spellcheck. <g> (Teasing) My advice? Before you publish that review, consider how it might feel if it was written about you or your work. How would you feel receiving that type of criticism? There are people behind those books who worked hard to bring you a pleasurable experience. Remember, the words you choose do matter.

Magendie: Remember that there are humans behind those books---people with heart and soul and puppies and kittens and children and grandchildren and parents and hurts and loves and happiness and sadness and joy and---well, we’re tender in the heart when it comes to our words, and feel oh-so-vulnerable putting ourselves out there. Be honest, but maybe find some way to be positive if you can. That said, I believe a reviewer should be allowed to write whatever kind of review they choose and the author should either not read them or suck it up.

Rasley: Authors with more than one book for sale might be better to review, because readers then might be able to read more than just the reviewed book.

Sinclair: Actually, I have a few suggestions. A. Review the book and not the author. You wouldn’t badmouth Edison because the light in your bathroom blew out. It’s the book you’re reviewing, not the hand that wrote it. Reviewers can be heartless when tearing apart a book, and that’s their job. But when they turn to attacks on the author, that’s personal and has no place in a book review. B. Make sure you get your facts straight before criticizing in a public forum. I’ve had reviews that have left me scratching my head. Example: A reviewer said of my recent sweet romance, Hawks Mountain, that it contained “too much sex.” Sweet romances contain sexual tension, but close the door on physical love scenes, so there was no sex in the book. C. Don’t give the entire story away so another reader has no reason to buy the book.

Brothers: We all need editors. It might be a good idea to ask a friend to look over what you’ve written to see if it makes sense. One of the strangest reviews I’ve ever received included an extensive laundry list of plot points she considered ridiculous and silly. I could practically see her rolling her eyes. Then, she concluded with, “But I can’t stop reading the series and can’t wait for Book Five.” Whoa, didn't see that one coming.

Any other comments regarding book reviews?

Jensen: Every review is a reflection of the person writing it.

Magendie: I’ve yammered on enough, by gawd! But I want to say this: Thank you readers, and thank you reviewers. Without you, our words wouldn’t have that encouraging/supportive/wonderful voice out there. Even a “not so good” review gives us another voice in the sea of books.

Rasley: Thanks to reviewers! I think of them as the “Super-readers.”

Sinclair: I got some really good advice from an author friend years ago. Read the review. Get furious. Scream, shout, stomp your feet and cry. For five minutes. Then get back to what you do best. Write another book, because success is the best revenge.

Brothers: All of the above – LOL!


  1. Marilee, thanks for letting us voice our opinions, but Kathryn said something I should have, thanks to reviewers who take time to provide thoughtful, encouraging and honest reviews. We know you have other things to do.

  2. I am going to have to learn to suck it up soon. Good to see a mix of responses.