But how far should authors go in soliciting reviews for their books? In fact, should authors solicit reviews at all? When authors go out of their way to ask friends and family for reviews does that constitute stacking the deck? After all, friends and family are only going to say nice things about our books. They want to help our books sell well.
When we work at piling up 5-Star reviews, are we really giving readers an honest picture of our books?
The issue of asking for reviews is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, especially since my second book The Doctor’s Lady just released and I’ve been checking out the reviews starting to roll in. As I've watch what other authors are doing, I've been mulling over how proactive I need to be with soliciting reviews. I couldn't help wondering if I needed to do more (because, quite honestly, I haven't been proactive in asking for online reviews).
And then a couple weeks ago I came across an article in The New York Times about the growing problem of fake reviews online: In a Race to Out-Rave, 5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5.
The article said, “As online retailers increasingly depend on reviews as a sales tool, an industry of fibbers and promoters has sprung up to buy and sell raves for a pittance . . . The boundless demand for positive reviews has made the review system an arms race of sorts. As more five-star reviews are handed out, even more five-star reviews are needed. Few want to risk being left behind.”
The article goes on to say that because of this increasing trend toward solicited reviews there is a bias toward positive reviews on everything, that now everyone is above average.
Of course most authors aren’t paying people to post 5-Star reviews (the same way some of the resorts, hotels, etc., are dishing out cash). But I have seen authors request, plead, and offer various kinds of incentives/rewards to people who post complimentary reviews.
Should authors take such an active role in soliciting reviews or should they allow reviews to roll in more naturally?
Yes, we all know how difficult it is to make our books stand out in today’s saturated market. But just how far are we willing to go to push our books into the spotlight?
As I wrestled through how I want to handle reviews, here’s what I’ve decided:
• I never have and never will directly ask anyone to post a review of my book on any of the online bookstores. I want the reviews to be freely given by readers who truly enjoyed and appreciated my books.
• If someone reads my book, likes it, and then specifically asks me how they can help promote it, I will let them know they’re welcome to write a review—but only if they’re comfortable doing so.
• I will continue to gently educate readers about the value of the reviews and how much they mean to writers. But I want them to know reviews are just one of many ways they can support authors they love.
For me, the bottom line is this: when people browse through my books on the shelves of online bookstores, I want to be known as a trustworthy author. I don’t want to deceive readers in any way by making myself or my books look better than they really are.
After all, if I deceive them, they’ll find out eventually when they read the book and it doesn’t live up to all of those positive reviews. Then I’ll have lost a reader (or many readers) and diminished my integrity and reputation.
So, what about you? How do you feel about authors soliciting reviews for their books with online bookstores? In your opinion, how far is too far?
Check out these blog tour stops for a chance to WIN a copy of my new book!
Wednesday 9/7: I'm baring it all on Katie Ganshert's blog in a guest post: "How a Perfectionist Learned to Bare Her Warts." (Also pick up Contest Puzzle Piece #3 there!)
Wednesday 9/7: I'm sharing more about the inspiration behind The Doctor's Lady on Marcia Richard's blog.
Thursday 9/8: I disclose the nitty-gritty details about Eli & Priscilla (characters from The Doctor's Lady) in a character spotlight on Rel Mollet's blog.
And don't forget to enter my BE A TRAILBLAZER Contest!