Review Terms and Conditions and Meltdowns? We’re Not Going to Take it!
We rarely post actual blog posts at On Top Down Under Book Reviews. We really don’t have the time to spend writing them. However, Cindi and I both thought it was time to have a say about our blog in relation to some increasingly annoying behaviour from authors within our primary genre, “MM” or gay romance. We’re also putting it out there that we aren’t interested in reading particular authors and why.
More and more we’re being asked to read and review books with conditions attached to the review request – “nothing less than 4 or 5 stars.” Or, another good one, “If you’re going to rate my book 3 stars or less, talk to me first.” Really? Talk to you. The author. Talk about what? About how we actually felt about the book, and why we’re going to rate and review the story and writing the way we actually want to? Not likely. You might look at the reviews on this blog and think we dole out 4 and 5 star reviews easily, but truth be told we don’t have a lot of time for books that don’t wow us or get under our skin enough to warrant a full review – whether glowing or disappointing. It takes a lot of time to write a review. What we consider middle of the road mostly end up on Goodreads with a quick summary.
On Top Down Under has always been about two things. Our love of books. And reviews for fellow readers. Cindi and I, and our fellow reviewers, love books. We like to answer questions with our reviews. Is a book worth buying? Does it sound like something someone else might like to read? Is the book interesting or unique? Is it the same but somehow better than others? Did it lack some technical details but made up for it in heart and story? Was the writing good but the editing subpar? Was it offensive in some way? Did it suck? We feel if a review is as detailed, forthright, honest and as interesting as we can make it, then someone may be helped to make a decision about a book they weren’t sure about beforehand. Most people have a limited amount to spend, they have tight budgets, and for some people books are a luxury item. If you’re new to our primary genre it really helps to get as many opinions as you can, too. When we review a book then it’s with the idea that we give what we believe is as informed and definite an opinion as we can. That it’s our words and our thoughts alone. That isn’t going to happen if we “chat” with authors about what they think we should be saying regarding their books. What’s most concerning is it’s happening more frequently, that there are authors who actually feel they can influence our perceptions. That they feel they’re entitled enough to a own a piece of our reviews about their books. No!
Everyone who reviews on here is more than reasonable in the way they review. If a book blows us away the book gets placed onto our Books of the Month, Featured Books, or Books of the Year. We shout out on social media – Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, Pinterest and Tumblr. We want to remind writers that reviews are one form of being seen. Whether we liked your book / novella / story or not, the by-product is that you get a review and you gain exposure. Reviews are our thoughts, feelings and opinions.
We don’t take a lot of review requests at this time because everyone on here is busy for one reason or another. If you expect a review in your words, to your satisfaction and to always be positive… go somewhere else. Or, better still, learn to take criticism as well as the glowing reviews. If you listen to any number of readers/reviewers anywhere you may learn something that helps your writing. But you know what? In the “MM” genre there are so few readers and more and more writers, chances are this is not going to be the most lucrative way to make a living. But ask yourself, do you really appreciate how nice it is having people read your words? People who take the time to voice their opinion about your writing? Writers have messages in the back of books like, ‘if you like this book please take the time to leave a review’. Okay. We do that. Not for terms and conditions we don’t. Not for people who have meltdowns over our reviews because it wasn’t what they wanted we won’t.
And because you’re here reading this –
About us Readers: Make no mistake, readers talk. Cindi and I are not huge networkers on FB or GR, but people still talk to us. Readers get suspicious when there’s a book with all 5 star reviews. Readers get suspicious when there are a medium number of reviews of a book with these oddly out of place looking 5 star reviews. Sock Puppets! is thrown out there. Readers are intrigued by 1 and 2 star reviews, particularly when there’s a few reviews that outline why. You can bet those people bought that book or they are being upfront about their feelings. Readers are drawn by the fact that someone has said something sucks, then told us all why they suck. We think things like, “Huh, that actually sounds like something I’d read.” Never underestimate the power of some 1 and 2 star reviews to sell your book(s) as well. But good luck to you if you genuinely have all 4 and 5 star reviews. The word will probably get out soon enough that you can write, and well.
Honesty: It’s amazing how people tell you they love honesty… until that honesty doesn’t suit them. Then suddenly it’s not honesty, it’s mean, nasty and personal. Cindi and I have watched authors pick up their bat and ball and go home because we did not give them what they were clearly expecting. Unsolicited messages like, ‘You’re my favourite reviewer/blog’ turns to social media meltdown and bitching. I’ve had writers fight with me over one book I didn’t like when I’ve written a lot of other positive reviews of their previous books. Both Cindi and I have been the subject of FB posts. Okay, fight with us, act childishly with us over a book. Don’t handle criticism well. Seriously, it’s better to get over it, it’s not personal, it’s reviewing. It’s not gospel, it’s an opinion. We all have them. Anyway, each book is something new. A reader can be disappointed in the writing of one book, the sentiments and the words, but love another by the same writer. If you write a book and send it out into the big wide world, offer it up for review, then you need to accept what the reviews will be for your book. You have to detach. It’s unprofessional and immature not to. Don’t write if you can’t handle criticism – seriously, don’t – and don’t come to On Top Down Under if you don’t want honest reviews. If you write a book, if you sell that book, and you’re lucky, expect to have ratings and/or reviews at some stage. Just don’t expect all those ratings to be 4 or 5 stars. Don’t expect all reviews to wax lyrical about your work – because they won’t.
And to circumvent the whole ‘it hurts to be judged’ argument. Every single one of us is judged every single day of our lives – for our work performance, for our parenting style, for our appearance, if we dare to be unique in some way or we’re just different. Some of these things are unwarranted, but when you sell a product you have to be prepared for opinions. Like it or not, that’s the pointy end of life and we have to harden ourselves, or at least strap on some fortitude to deal with it. If you can’t handle criticism, if you only see the microscopic black dot on the otherwise pristine whiteboard, then you’re in the wrong game. Don’t write books. And one last thing, if you have personal review terms and conditions attached to your book, don’t come to On Top Down Under Book Reviews because we’re not interested in your conditional book.
Good for you! Stick to your morals.
You should be able to voice your opinions without worrying about backlash from authors.
Thanks so much for your support, Jenelle. It’s true, it is the reader’s opinion of what they read with no interference required 🙂
Isn’t the idea that reviews are impartial? I have a problem when I see a lot of these advanced reading books out. It just seems to be people that love the books so often that you don’t know to preorder or not. If I preorder I want to know it’s going to be good and writers don’t always write to the same standard. Some do but not all of them. Then when it’s new writers you just don’t know. Is it friends or the people who just seem to love everything? I enjoyed this post very much. Keep saying how… Read more »
Definitely the idea of reviews, Deb. They should always be impartial. We do get ARCs of books on this blog and we note that. We also buy our fair share as well. I understand that feeling of ‘what do I pre-order and what do I wait and see.’ When I first started reading romance I would rely heavily on reviews from other readers before buying so I know it’s really important.
Cheers for the comment on this post 🙂
I can see why you’d be annoyed about this. Nobody’s asked me for rating stars but sometimes they send me links to buy a book of theirs on amazon and I reckon that’s kinda rude. Keep doing your own thing like you do!
That is rude, Jay. If you wanted to buy the book you would. If someone recommends a book to you who isn’t the author then that’s different. If they want you to read and review it and are offering you a review copy that’s a different thing too.
Thanks for the support, as always 🙂
One of the best things that ever happened to me as a published author was a 1 star review in my early days of publishing. I’d written a naughty story that I was hesitant to publish because it turned everything we know about the North Pole on its ear. I wasn’t sure how it would be received. Not long after it was published I got that 1 star rating and review that simply said the story was painfully bad. A lot of folks ‘liked’ that review and decided to check out the story themselves. It turned out that quite a… Read more »
Hi Candi, Thanks for coming on here. As a published author you prove a point, having 1 or 2 stars is not the kiss of death. It can, in fact, get other readers talking or interested. They want to see for themselves. I agree, a bunch of genuine reviews always looks better for the writer. I remember a book in the “MM” genre that came out last year, or maybe the year before, which had a bad first review by a very popular GR reviewer – who listed really good reasons as to why it didn’t work for them. Anyway,… Read more »
Wow, authors have actually asked you to not give their books less than 4 or 5 stars??? That’s just plain ridiculous. And asking you to talk to them first if you’re going to give a low rating… that’s just not how it works. I do state in my policy that I will *most likely* email the author to let them know if I can’t give their book at least three stars, but that’s my personal choice as a reviewer simply because I prefer to use my time to share books I like with the world, and it’s still not a… Read more »
They sure have, Kristen. I remember the first time that happened – on that occasion it was the, “If you’re going to rate 3 stars or lower, talk to me” ‘chat’. I remember the author very well. I remember them all and I won’t read them because that’s not how I do things. That’s not how Cindi does things either. Lately, though, it’s become somewhat more regular. And it’s not just direct requests either, it’s implied ones as well. It’s authors behaving like children because they don’t like the review – when it is an honest opinion. It’s also authors… Read more »
I’ve never really gotten any backlash luckily, but I worry that one day I will. But as reviewers we shouldn’t even *have* to worry about that. And the authors who do these things are only hurting themselves in the end because then readers avoid them. Anyway, my post is already written, it’s just not going up for a few weeks because I’m ahead on discussion posts (and very proud of myself about that lol) 😛 but I’ll let you know when it’s posted because I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Absolutely agree with all of your sentiments. Hopefully you won’t have any blowback whatsoever. It isn’t something that should happen.
You’re kicking arse with your discussion posts, Kristen. I’m lucky to be on top of reviews, lol.
My post is finally up if you wanna check it out 🙂
It’s one thing to ask for a review but another to expect a favoured outcome. That isn’t the spirit of review copies and reviewing . I used to review on a blog years ago and it’s changed a lot since then. There weren’t as many blogs then either. If blogs and readers and reviewers do what authors want then there’s no point to having reviews. I don’t like the reviews on Amazon as much as I do on GoodReads Booklikes and independent sites like this one. I know Amazon is trying to clean it all up but you can still… Read more »
Yes, to your first sentence, Matty. 100% yes!!
We have seen it happening on Goodreads as well and it ends badly. It’s not worth it. If you have been on a blog before I’m sure you’ve seen the time involved and some of the things behind the scenes. I hope your reading is super relaxed now 🙂
Thank you for your support/comments about the post.
I read this and had to read it again because I’m floored that people would actually try to dictate what you say in your reviews. Aren’t reviews opinions? I’ve loved tons of books that my bestie didn’t think were all that. I’m pretty new to MM and have only been reading it for a year or so. Even in that short amount of time I’ve seen 3 different instances where authors or their fans went off on Twitter or Facebook because of something a reader said. But I’ve also seen it with authors who write straight romance and erotica too.… Read more »
Cindi and I don’t see all the books the same way so I understand about your bestie and you seeing thing differently. That’s how it works with lots of things, isn’t it. Different taste in food, movies, partners, 🙂 as well as books…
I am sure it does go on in other genres like you mentioned.
Thank you for your kind words about On Top Down Under. Much appreciated., Lauren.
Not trying to be rude but book reviews aren’t about the author’s feelings there about a personal relationship the reader has with the book they’re reading. If I want to know what the writer thinks then I’ll read their book and if they can’t tell me everything in the book then that’s a problem with the writing. It’s not rocket science just leave book reviews to book readers.
I enjoyed reading the post. 🙂
Definitely not being rude. Let the readers and reviewers work out what they do and don’t like for themselves.
I agree 100%. Tell me the story during the book… not before or after.
Thanks for your thoughts, Wendy 🙂
Wow. These authors should be thankful they’re getting reviews, not bitching and moaning when the reviewers don’t say what they (the authors) want to hear. Any exposure is good exposure, in my opinion.
Thanks for the post. I’ll be sharing it.
Yes! Review exposure is good and even if there are 1 & 2 stars with some harsher words if it gets you out there then that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Thanks for your words and post support, Bindi. It’s really good to see some authors pop on this post 🙂
I needed time to reply to this. YOU GUYS ROCK and that was put so succinctly, I applaud you both. I had no idea you were receiving ARC’s with conditions stipulated on them. As you know I buy my books that I occasionally review for you so no ARC’s for me. Actually I think I wrote maybe three ARC’s a long time ago. To back track quickly, I’m an occasional reviewer for Kazza and Cindi, I’m also on a pension and books are a luxury. I need to use text-to-speech or audiobooks these days as reading is too taxing for… Read more »
I also forgot to mention that I can rarely afford to purchase new releases to review in the first place. So if you see one of my reviews you now know it comes from the love of the book, and the ability to review it comes from the passion of just how much I enjoyed it. Due to my illness I can’t find the strength, actually the drive is a better way to put it, to review books I found less interesting. This also goes for books I love too. I don’t always have the energy to write reviews for… Read more »
It’s true, many people have to budget so they need to have some idea as to wether or not they really want that book – they want an open, honest, passionate review/opinion.
We love it when you can review for the blog 🙂
I’m sure we aren’t the only ones having this happen. I just decided to send a message to those who are thinking about asking for a review with conditions – overt or covert – to not even go there because we aren’t interested, and never have been. If I read a book and review it has to be my gut feelings about the book in my review. I won’t entertain the pre review, “not less than 4 stars” or the post review, “let’s talk about the rating/review….” Not happening. While I try to be empathetic, I’m not writing reviews to… Read more »
Exactly Kazza, and I’m not looking for the poor me I’m sick, pity party. I’m ill, it’s not going away, I accepted that and don’t have the energy to review books I dislike. That’s just life for me now and if I’m well enough to write for you guys, it’s because I’m feeling relatively OK and the book made me do it 😉 If the book is excellent it just gives me a driving energy to want to share it with others. I read/listen to A LOT OF BOOKS EVERY WEEK as I’m usually stuck in bed. So no, I’m… Read more »
Wow! You just don’t know what people will do to sell something! Even asking for a rating or a review or something. On Twitter all the time people are pushing their books not once or twice or anything like that it’s all the time and drives me cuckoo. Good for you sticking to your principals. 🙂
I know what you mean about the oversaturation of promotion on Twitter. I guess writers see it as another platform to promote their writing. I can’t help but think that the best form of promotion is writing good books.
Thanks for your support, Dee 🙂