Amazon TOP 1000 Reviewer Dilemma

Written By: Julie Whiteley - Jul• 15•14
Julie Whiteley

Our Resident Reviewer Julie Whiteley


Here is what is new in the life of a freelance book reviewer.

A few months past, I received a request from a self-published author seeking a review for two of her books. I read the first book, wrote a review and posted the review on Goodreads and Amazon US.  I alerted the author the review was up. Some reviewers do not alert the author. I do it as a curtesy.

The author emailed me and thanked me for doing the review, then added this caveat: Please remove the disclaimer about having received a copy of my book in exchange for an honest review. Huh? Next, she asked me to remove the publishing information that I listed as “independent.” Whoa!

I explained to the author that in the United States I am required to place a disclaimer in my review if I receive a free copy for review.

Now, this author is not from the United States and perhaps is not aware of the rules. I have been asked numerous times about the perception readers have in regards to self-publishing. New authors are often concerned if it will make them look bad if I tell people I received the book from the author for review.  Some new indie authors do not even know how to send me a book. That does not offend me. New indie authors are learning. I’m good with it. I walk them through it.

I have a set format when writing my reviews:  I start with with the Book Title , Author, Publisher, Release date and finally, the Disclaimer.  I have done this since I first began writing reviews and I’ve never had a complaint about the above format.

Frankly, the author’s request that I edit the review made me curious. I wanted to know why. I asked. She gave a cryptic reply citing personal reasons.  I asked around trying to figure out why this author is so adamant about hiding her independent status.  A few independent authors have told me that they don’t advertise their independent status, but don’t hide it either. Most indie authors I know are loud and proud about their indie status.  Anyway, I left the review untouched and went on about my business.

Weeks pass and I forgot all about it.  Recently, another email popped up from the author. She wrote it really ‘bugged’ her that the information about her being self-published was out there in print for the whole world to see.  She asked me again to remove “independently published” from the review.

What the heck?

I emailed the author and told her I wanted an explanation because I have never edited a review once posted and I never have taken one down either.  Before I took such a draconian step, I meant to know the real reason.

Are you ready for this?

The author said: Self-published books are known for mistakes, typos, bad writing and anyone can publish a book these days. (Yes, they can. She did.)  Furthermore, the author insisted she does not want to be lumped into that category.  Here’s the nitty-gritty: She once landed an agent and her family was so thrilled they threw a big party

     The little room for Constipated Author Egos

The little room for Constipated Author Egos

to celebrate. Her book was shopped around by said agent. Months pass.  Traditional publishers were not interested—not even a nibble. She self-published. Now, because of my review, the author is fearful her family will learn she is self-published and she does NOT want them to find out.

All anyone has to do is glance at the copyright page when opening a book to learn if it’s self published or not. The copyright page tells who owns the publishing rights. If no publisher is named, I presume it’s independent.  I don’t know how you can keep that a secret or why you would even want to.  Half the New York Times bestselling authors are self-published and the other half wish they were.

The notion that self-published authors produce only bad writing, typos and grammatical errors is passé.

Yes, I still come across one or two books that are real stinkers, but for the most part the indie author has matured. Almost to a writer, all of the indie authors I know and review are serious about their work. Here is what I have learned: Whether indie or traditionally published—bad books die on the shelf. Early on, with the innovation of the Kindle, bad books did get a lot of attention. No longer—badly written books seldom—if ever, now get on the best promo sites such as Indies Unlimited, Bookbub, ENT, Pixel of Ink or OHFB. Books are vetted, thus they do not make their way to the larger reading public. It is mind-boggling how savvy readers are today.

Trust me, there are books in hardcover being sold for 30$ a pop loaded with typos. My daughter brought a book over to my house last week and showed me the mistakes she found in a hardcover book she’s reading. The book was written by a well-established author whose day job is writing. It’s published by a top five publisher.  I find mistakes in print books all the time. Bad writing? Don’t even get me started. I’ve read some awful books put out by major publishers—and they do not fix mistakes from one print run to the next. Indie authors do.

I’m angry. This writer doesn’t want to be lumped with indie authors? Don’t hand me that line. She got tired of waiting for a nibble from a brick and mortar publisher and did what other smart writers do—she published the book herself.  I do know some authors hide behind a fake publisher. They make up a name and slap that on their title page. This author could have done that. She didn’t. One suspects that while  anticipating a contract that would give her status as traditionally published, she denigrated indie books. Now she has one of her own. She’s on the other side of the fence. I say she needs to bake Four and Twenty Blackbirds in a pie and learn to eat crow gracefully.

Here is the sad part. The author has a nice book. I gave it decent review. She doesn’t know how to promote it. She doesn’t know how to sell it. She doesn’t have an Amazon author page. With her attitude, what other indie author would network with her? Who will help her learn the ropes?

So, what say ye?  Does it matter to you if readers know you are an independent author?

Are you up front about that or do you only mention it if you are asked about your publisher?

Do you think perceptions vary about independent authors from one country to another?

Does this author’s request surprise you?

Should I avoid adding the publishing information?

Do you think I should honor her request and revise my review?

Speak up and sound off because I want to put this dilemma behind me.

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  1. Jackie Weger says:

    Wow! Julie, IMO–leave the review as you posted it. It is one thing for an author to be new and dumb as rock. I’ve been there. But that author Eats Stupid for Breakfast. I think you are right. Prolly she ran off at the mouth about books by indie authors. One would imagine she hasn’t bothered to read an indie title. The problem with putting oneself upon a waxed pedestal is–the dang thing melts in the heat.

  2. Mary Smith says:

    I agree with Jackie and don’t think you should change your review. The writer asked you to read and review her book and from what you say you gave it a good review so she should be happy – and proud of being an indie author and not pretend she isn’t self-published.

    Mary Smith

  3. Lisa Hall says:

    Don’t edit your review. Keeping the facts hidden is the author’s job, if that’s what she wants to do. I think that’s a bad idea and an even worse business move, but it’s her book and her business. How is she going to explain to her family and friends that her book is only available online? No, their friends can’t pick it up at Barnes and Noble. Editing a review won’t keep any of that from happening.

    I agree with Jackie, sounds like she talked herself into a box or she’s got a family member she needs to stand up to. Karma’s funny that way.

    • Lisa,
      Yes, it’s not rocket science. Readers know what the score is so she’s not fooling anyone. This person has a lot to learn. So, even though I offered to help and tried to explain things, I’m afraid the author will have to experience some pretty painful truths before it’s all said and done.

  4. Update: I have been officially “Fired” by the author. She has released me from my obligation to review the other book she sent and has asked me to refrain from posting the review anywhere else or on my blog. Hey, no problem! There are only several hundred others waiting in line for a review. Who turns down free publicity? Shakes head.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      I am so laffin’! Send her to the crapper!

    • Pete Barber says:

      Fired! Heck, if she got a published review she should be sending you e-flowers and thank you notes.

      I review for an indie site, and we always put the disclaimer at the end. If it were my book, I’d wear that as a badge of honor.

      Like me, I’m sure you pass over ten books for every one you do read for review. That disclaimer and the acknowledgement that you are a ‘book reviewer’ gives more weight to your comments.

      Building a good Amazon review profile for a novel is like pushing a pea up a hill with your nose. I guess she’s gonna have a pretty sore nose if she keeps turning it up.


    • Fired – oh i love it! Julie, you’ve made my morning…
      On a serious note, reviews need to be honest otherwise they’ll all be 5 stars and totally useless. I’ve bought books with 2 stars as what that person didn’t like is just what i was looking for. Its why i always try to give reasons for my ratings too.
      I have a section on my blog of what books i review, and yet get requests that are genric, clearly sent out en mass, and are totally out of my genres…authiors need to do homework too. Just becuase we review doesn’t mean we read anything. I only review chosen books as if i read something I wan’t enjoy i’m going to give it low stars…so what’s the point. there are authors too who think becuase you are getting free book that puts reviewer under obligation for high star review – well, my time is precious too and time spend reading is the same as any other job. I’ll review honestly or not at all. Once of the reasons the description of book is so important is its the hook for readers and reviewers and yet there are stilll many books who have little or nothng there?? Why? Its a missed opportunity IMO. I’m not going to choose a book without any ifo no matter how catchy and appealing the title is.

    • Angela White says:

      As a favor to all of us hard working indie authors, please update the official review and post her bad behavior for all readers to see. They have a right to know where the material comes from, but more than that, I’m sure she is soliciting other reviewers as well and they need to know what they’re getting into.
      Also, reviews are under copyright. It is YOURS and she can’t force you to do anything with it. You can post it as many times as you want, anywhere you want, no matter how good or bad.
      Amazon reviewers have been a wonderful resource for independent writers and I hate to see idiots ruin it for everyone else. Sorry you had trouble!

  5. Laurie WJN says:

    Wow – I am in complete agreement with the previous comments and I do not think you should revise your review. I am extremely surprised that the author would have the nerve to even ask. She should be very grateful that 1) you were willing to review her book and 2) that you took the time to not only post your reviews but also to let her know. As a newly published, independent author I know how hard it can be to get folks to review your work. I have also done quite a few reviews myself, I think it not only helps to improve my own writing skills but I think it is good karma to help fellow authors, and I know how much time and effort goes into each review I do. This author seems incredibly ungrateful for the service you provided to her. I am also saddened to hear her very judgmental and antiquated view of independent publishing. Yes, its true that anyone can publish and there are some lower quality books out there, but I am so thankful for the chance to share my writing with others.

    • Laurie,
      This person will get knocked down a few notches eventually. This is not only a creative process, it’s a business and it’s very hard work. All I can do is say “Good Luck” cause they are going to need lots of it!

  6. WOW! Unbelievable in this day and age. I agree with Jackie, not only does this author eat stupid for breakfast, but drank a gallon of the publishing house koolaid. Methinks there must be something else going on there. Incidentally, I have a novel I want you to review but please do not publish the title, my name, or where to find it 🙂

    • Michael,
      Right? They have six reviews via the “friends and family” plan and may never get another one with that attitude. Yes, I thought it was the strangest request I have ever had. Again, I think this person has set themselves up for a hard fall. But, you live, you learn. If the writer really wants success a lot will have to change. Too bad they will have to learn the hard way.

  7. BigAl says:

    Julie, stick to your guns.

    I’ve got a ton of comments.

    I’ve had authors demand, beg, cajole, and otherwise try to get me to take down or change negative reviews. It doesn’t happen to me often, but it happens. Only one time in roughly 1,000 reviews on my site have I changed a review other than something minor like a typo fix. That was because I made a mistake of fact and the author pointed it out. So, in answer to your first question, no this doesn’t surprise me. Authors come from the entire spectrum of people out there and, just like there are plenty of people who are lacking in common sense, there are some authors with the same problem. Luckily, in my experience, it’s a minority.

    Changing the review would, IMO, compromise your credibility as a reviewer. The flip side is, if you do make a mistake (as I did the one review I changed), own up to it for the same reason.

    The format of your reviews is up to you. If you give the publishing information if it is Hachette, Harlequin, or whoever, why should an indie be different?

    You’re much more patient than I am with authors who haven’t done their homework. That’s commendable. Surely she saw the format of your reviews before submitting. If not, she failed to do her due diligence if having that information public was going to be an issue.

    The FTC disclosure she objected to was not only required for the legal reasons you cited, but also in the version on Amazon to follow their terms of service.

    In summary, everything you’ve done is right and I can’t see any reason to change a thing.

    • Big Al,
      Thank you for your wise comments. I feel a lot better about things now. Authors should do their homework before they do anything. Reading a few of my reviews before contacting me would have saved us all a lot of trouble.
      I don’t like dishonesty and that’s how it felt to me. What a tangled web we weave…

      • What Big Al said.

        And also: it is not part of a reviewer’s job description to build or stoke an author’s ego, although a good review may have that effect. Julie, you are a such a good-hearted person to have been sensitive to this particular author’s distress but I am glad you left your review intact. I’m sure all of us feel the swell of Indie authorship acceptance that has been building over the past couple of years.

        We no longer hang our heads in shame or struggle with how to hide that we are self-published. Being self-published is now a badge that identifies the writer as being not only talented with writing skills, but also endowed with business, promoting, and marketing skills.

  8. Well, I loved hearing this story. Though I shook my head in disbelief. I went from a small independent publisher to being a total indie, and I couldn’t be happier. I love having the control. The author wanted an honest review – or so it seeed – and you gave her an honest review. You’re job is done, Julie. Did she bother to say thank you?

    Sharon Pennington

    • Sharon,
      Yes, the writer did thank me, but then said” but could you remove etc.
      It was a very odd feeling because I just felt like something wasn’t right. I can’t help what lies this person has told to their family. That’s not my problem. I just write book reviews.

  9. Rich Meyer says:

    The “asshat” in me says “Rewrite the review and give him 1-star, using ascii art to proclaim: “THIS WRITER IS A MORON”. The “kid” in me says send me his book so I can give it a “review”, since I’m never afraid to blow up ratings like supernovas.

    By the way… SELF-PUBLISHED WRITER HERE. Yeah, I make mistakes in my books sometimes, but the neat thing about being an indie, is that instead of perpetuating a stereotype, I can FIX the damn things when they show up, instead of worrying about trivialities like this bozo.

    • Well. Rich I did have a few moments of temptation. I thought about posting the review on my blog and then all over social media only putting the independent publication part in bold capital letters. But, I’m not giving this person anymore of my time. They have wasted enough of it already. Yes, this concern was just stupid. I know this is an adult person, but they acted like a child. I just couldn’t believe I was having this conversation with an author. It was surreal.

  10. Julie Frayn says:

    You should not change your review or remove the disclaimer. The review is YOUR property, not hers. I am an indie author, loud and proud. I tell everyone. I’d WANT people to know that I gave you a book in exchange for an honest review. Emphasis on honest. They’re the only kind that I ever want, good or bad. That she would fire a reviewer (something we all need and want) and lie to her family? That’s just plain sad…

    • It is sad and the thing is, sooner or later they will have to own up to the truth. I don’t want to get caught up in someone else’s dishonesty. It is not any of my business what someone tells their family, but leave me out of it. It’s not my fault you lied and now you’ve been caught. What a strange place I found myself in. Someone has a lot of growing up to do.

  11. Linda Record says:

    To alter or remove the review would reflect poorly on your professionalism, in my opinion. She is a writer. You are a reviewer. You did your job. She should not be poking her nose into how you chose to do it. If she had expectations, she should have been up front about them when she asked you to read her book.

  12. Mike Markel says:


    Weird story. Weird author.

    Personally, I’m neither proud nor ashamed to be self-published. I have some nonfiction books that are published by traditional publishers. And my novels were published by a small indie. Now I do them myself. Who cares?

    Worrying about the publisher’s pedigree is foolish. It’s vanity. What we all need to be worried about it how to become better writers. When I watch the most accomplished writers talking about their craft–people like Updike and Roth–they talk about the quest to be better writers, not to sell more, and certainly not to be published by “better” houses.

    • Oh snap! That’s a great observation. I agree. I think of Indies as another publishing option. I know authors that write for publishing houses and also “moonlight” as a self published author. Many can not wait to be done with that contract because they feel their creative control is being managed for the sake of more sales. So, this becomes more about business and not about quality of work. For publishing houses it’s all about the bottom most instances. It’s noticeable too. Once I started to read Indie books I found it harder and harder to climb back into the “box”. Too boring, too formulaic and too slick. Book factories. Don’t get me wrong, I still read many novels by top publishing houses but it’s becoming less and less as time goes on.

      Vanity is the perfect word for that. This author had a lot of it and a lot of nerve too.
      Very insightful comment Mike.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      John Updike is trad published. And Phillip Roth is dead. But both could spend years writing their books, and had a bevy of editors cleaning up their mss. Want to read a great book? Read Claire Bloom’s. She tells what it was like living with Roth for 17 years!

      I’m commercial. I want to sell more books. I don’t care how it sounds. If y’all don’t mind me saying so…

      • I don’t think too many people spend all that time writing a book and working really hard to promote because it’s just a hobby. Nothing wrong with selling books, I just think YOU care more about the book than a publishing firm that’s screaming for a book every 6 months. I like Roth’s work but I’m sure he was a real pill to deal with in real life.

      • Jackie Weger says:

        Oh. Sorry. I got those guys mixed up. Roth is alive at 81 and Updike is dead.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Mike! I have to touch on this. You are speaking of two literary greats, but! If you think Roth and Updike didn’t talk money–you are dead wrong. They did–to their agents and publishers while dining at the Four Seasons, or lunching at the NY Press Club, or chatting up Dorothy Parker around those little tables in the Algonquin or the Oak Room at the Plaza. They wrote for money. Writing is/was their days jobs. They submitted to publishers. They collected stipends for speaking at conferences and for every article for the New Yorker. The only time I ever hear a trade author say, “I don’t write for the money,” is when a royalty check is less than expected and then they call in the forensic accountants. Yes, they do. I can point you to three blogs by indie authors who say, “I don’t write for the money.” (Because their books ain’t selling. What a bunch of BS. If you are not writing for money–write a diary! All authors talk about becoming better writers for public consumption. You and I don’t know what their raw mss look like. We only get to see the work after a bunch of revisions and a bevy of editors have polished it. I have seen the raw mss of a couple of NYT best-selling authors. They ain’t pretty. I’m an indie author. I love it. I ain’t takin’ a back seat to nobody.

      • I know that’s right. I think some traditional publishing houses are getting careless with editing and with glossing up the work before it’s published. The book my daughter showed me is a great example of that. It was terrible!! Typos, grammatical errors, and missing words, and plot issues. It was like someone lost their notes on the book or something. The book retails for 27.95 in the US. It was a big disappointment. I wonder what the raw product was like?

        • Jackie Weger says:

          Julie! The book might have been ghosted–buy a bad ghost writer–not like my Lottie! I once shared an agent with V.C. Andrews of Flowers in the Attic fame. The poor woman was so riddled with degenerative arthritis she had to stand at a special chest high table to write. After she died, another raft of books came out–supposedly mss tucked away out of site. But, the later books did not have her magical, incestuous touch. I was told she did not start writing until she was wheelchair bound. She got five books out before she died. The others to me are suspect.

      • Pete Barber says:

        At the risk of lowering the intellectual tone of this conversation–Hmm . . . The Algonquin–the best martinis I ever tasted–big suckers too!!

        • Jackie Weger says:

          Yes! I love the place. All redone now though. Not the same atmosphere and all of the old waiters are gone. Then we’d go Sardi’s for after theatre dinner. There would be Richard Burton, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and a host of others. Pfft. I miss them days.

  13. Well, I just love this story.
    Thank you, Julie, for sharing it!

    I would say that about 90% of the books I have read in the past two years have been by indie authors. No low quality there.

    Indie Authors have quite a reason to be proud! It is quite a feat to self-publish a book, and those that are great definitely deserve the attention of sites like BookBub, etc.

    Funny that she “fired” you. Looks like she has a lot to learn. Another one of those people who belong to Jackie’s “eats stupid for breakfast” club. :o)

    – Jay

    • I’m with you. I wouldn’t waste my time reading and reviewing books I thought were going to suck. So, I have always had the highest respect for Indie authors and frankly I never really think about an author being Indie or traditionally published when I read a book. They get the same treatment. When it comes to promotions I work a lot harder for the indie though. Traditionally published authors have “people” and money to help them with that sort of thing and they appreciate it a lot more too.

  14. Dale Furse says:

    I agree. Reviews must stand as posted. I publish under my business name, DCFBooks, but I also state that on my website in my bio.

    I do feel a little sorry for the author though. She has obviously told some fibs to her family. They believe she is trad published. Oh what’s that saying. The web we weave when at first we deceive? Something like that, lol.

    • Dale,
      I thought that same thing! I can’t help it if you are dishonest with people. That’s not my problem and I didn’t appreciate the attempt at to draw me into their deceit. They would have been “outed” sooner or later no matter what. It’s just ridiculous. In fact, the whole thing was just bizarre.

  15. Sounds to me like this author got scammed by an agent who takes your money, does nothing for 6 months and then advises you to self publish, ‘so he can show your sales to trad pubs’. A pal of mine was caught by one of these while I was bringing out my first book and got very snooty with me because ‘I`ve got an agent’. Ended up with iUniverse. He’s now better than me because he once had an agent, but guess which of us still selling books. Publish anyway, no-one can fire a reviewer!

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Hoo Hah! Having an agent does not mean one is crowned with glory! Having an agent means forking over 15%/20% of your royalties before you ever see the dang check–weeks later. Been there done that! Having an agent does not mean one is a better writer than other writers. I know a NYC agent who hired her Dad as an assistant…He cashed all of the royalty checks of her authors and went on tear. I sent Finding Home to an agent. She said the book didn’t have a ‘hook’–turned me down flat. I self-published. 97,278 readers downloaded the book in April 2014 and wrote 250 reviews. And it is ticking right along, thank you. I had a NYC agent for years. She “bundled” romance authors and shopped them around for far smaller advances than shopping them individually. When I discovered that, I by passed her and my advances shot up. If an author gets snarky with me because he/she has an agent…he/she better stand behind a tree because my snake gun is loaded with buckshot.

      • LOL!! Oh my. I think you are better off trusting yourself and your instincts. I would research and research and research before I did anything with an agent or publisher these days. Too many scams out there. That could have been the case with this author. I think she started believing her own hype and it came back to haunt her. Again, that’s not my problem. I did my job- the end.

  16. Neil Ostroff says:

    Great article. It really hit home when you said that the big sites are vetting out the bad indie books and only taking on the good ones. I have been lucky enough to be featured numerous times on the sites you mentioned, especially ENT which I have been featured four times. Thanks for this.

  17. Rich Meyer says:

    The big part of this problem is maintaining one’s integrity. I like to think I still have mine, and Julie definitely has her’s.

    I’ve got some simple rules: Every book I treat as the same – I care little about who writes it, indie or trad, male or female, etc., etc. I will NOT however review a book by anyone I’ve had any sort of negative altercation with; it would NOT be fair to the book to do so, since I’m going to be a little jaundiced one way or the other. I won’t read several indie authors for that fact, nor will I read an Orson Scott Card book, or anything by L. Ron Hubbard.

    I will review a friend’s book, but they’re gonna have to realize that I’m not giving five-stars just because I know them. I’ve been lucky in that nearly all the books I’ve read from the majority of my fellow indies deserved the Amazon/Goodreads qualification for “five stars” (or at least four, to keep them honest). But I’ve also read a couple of books (including one of the only books that has ever actually offended me – something I hardly thought was possible using the English language without dead kittens) that got much lower ratings. Again, ALL books get the ratings I believe they deserve.

    Most folks need to remember that: A review is just a particular person’s opinion about a particular work at a particular moment in time. Or at least it should be that; nothing more, nothing less. If you are bringing in issues about the publisher or publishing history of the book, YOU ARE NO LONGER REVIEWING THE BOOK!

    • Right! I can’t make that distinction when I’m reviewing a book. If you published the book – it’s out there. I don’t care if you self published or you traditionally published. My job is to read the book and tell you want I think. That’s all. I have discovered so many wonderful authors in the indie world. I’m so glad I don’t think the way this author does about self publishing. You can be successful as an Indie author if you are willing to do the work. If you write a good book I will say so, if you didn’t then I will say so. It’s really pretty simple. I just don’t like being told what to leave in or take out, add or change. If I do that, then it’ not my opinion anymore, it’s someone else’s.

  18. Jenny Harper says:

    Some great comments on this thread. Publishing is changing really fast and a lot of writers haven’t caught up yet. I suspect this writer has been someone who regularly badmouthed self publishing and has been caught out. There’s no shame in self pubbing these days. Tired of doors slamming in my face, I did just that – learned a lot – found new friends – got spotted and signed to a small, savvy publisher who is really keen to promote me. One day I will probably self pub again. Everything is fluid these days and the beauty of it is, our books need never go out of print.

    I loved Jackie’s comments about ‘wax pedestals melt in the heat’. Hah! I shall store that away in the memory banks.

    Leave the review as it is.

  19. Rich Meyer says:

    Reviews do NOT have the intrinsic provision that they can and should be revised at the whim of an author. That is definitely not the way the system works. A particular book is not, say, a particular performance of a play or a particular episode of a TV show, where the quality of the narrative may waver depending on a number of factors. A critic won’t be reading a book a second time and finding the prose much improved over the last time he read it (and yes, in this new publishing paradigm, that’s very possible, but the majority of authors and the vast majority of reviewers are not going to go back to re-critique something they found lacking the first time, at least not without a lot of hopeful optimism noted the first time around).

    A review is just an opinion; if a writer can’t deal with that, time to find another job/hobby/sideline, because they are not going to be sadly disappointed in this particular career.

    • Rich Meyer says:

      Whoops. Double negative in that last line. Fingers don’t always work when I rant 😉

    • Right! I wonder how this author will feel when the real big bad guys show up and rip into the book and someone will sooner or later. I think I was more than patient with this person. They received an honest and fair and positive review. Most people would be thrilled with that. Some reviewers will bow to the pressure though and when they do that it makes it hard on everyone else. Like Big Al said, if I made a mistake, then yes, I need to fix that. But, telling the truth and writing an honest review is all I am required to do. I many regret that someday when someone gets mad and goes on a “tick fest” and marks all my reviews as “unhelpful”. but I’m still going to stick it out. My integrity is all I have and I’m not giving that up.

    • Rich, re the going back/re reading :- I gave a book a three star rating recently, as it it was ok but that was it – and of course its one of those with devotee followers and clutches of five stars…. I’ve given fives to other books from same author, but this one was just …bland…a let done after what had gone before. I said why I felt it lacked for me, and was taken to task by one of the five star people saying I should re read it and I would understand it better and then could uprate. Well, err…no. I’ve too may good books to go back and re read one I didn’t like first time round. I re read favourites – I lke to do that, but not ones I didn’t like. Life is too short for that. Not all books will please all readers – that’s just the way it is and readers and authors alike need to accept that. So long as there are reasons for a high or low star other readers can judge for themselves whether those reasons will affect them.

      • Jackie Weger says:

        Jeannie, I agree with you! When I readers/reviewer does not like my book. My bad. I’m good with it. I have a two star sitting one of my titles right now–reader just could not stand the heroine…but she loved my bio. So funny. Readers and reviewers bring all of their own baggage to a book. I get it. I know I do. There are some well-written books that I just won’t go near. IMO–the reader/reviewer has the last word. That’s fair.

  20. Laurie Boris says:

    Hi, Julie. The author’s request surprised me. I’m proud to be an indie author, and I respect the heck out of reviewers. Some have offered me a “courtesy look” over the last few years I’ve been publishing, but I would never expect or ask for one. Or ask to have something removed. I hope you aren’t discouraged from reviewing indie authors in the future.

    • Occasionally I do get discouraged because I could easily review for Netgalley etc only and avoid all individual request, but, I love what I do and more often than not I meet some great people, get to read wonderful books, and make new friends. I’m not going to let a few bad experiences keep me from doing what I want. I might take a little vacation once in awhile though. LOL

  21. I agree with you and with the other commenters, except for one statement you made at the beginning, which was “ the United States I am required to place a disclaimer in my review if I received a free copy for review.” Who requires that, Amazon? For myself, I have objected over some reviews I’ve received that had the disclaimer of receiving a copy in exchange for a review. My objection? I believe it weakens the review. Seeing the disclaimer, a reader might give less weight to the review.

    In my case the reviewers from LibraryThing, and I asked in advance of the review that they not include it. Some said Amazon would otherwise delete the review. Some agreed with me and did not include it. Their reviews were not deleted. So I’m a little confused over how the disclaimer is a requirement.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Stephen! A disclaimer does not weaken the review. The big five send ARC copies to NetGalley. Every single one of those reviews from hardcover trad-published authors has a disclaimer. FREE copy for an honest review. Julie is one of the reviewers for NetGalley. Moreover you want those disclaimers on those first dozen reviews, especially if your title is being vetted by a premier promo site–otherwise those reviews might get discounted as coming from family or friends–and you might miss out on a dang good shot at selling loads of books.

    • Stephen,
      Yes, it is required by Amazon and Netgalley etc. It used to be a really big deal with a lengthy and legal blah blah blah every reviewer had to include if they were provided a review copy. These days a simple sentence is all that’s needed. Rumors come and go about adding the ARC part in the review. I never mention that detail. But, some reviewers don’t say anything about getting a free copy and Amazon probably has no way of checking on that. But, I wouldn’t want to get caught with my pants down so to speak. I am a freelance reviewer and Amazon is bound to discover that I get my books for free. I worked too hard to get where I am to let a little technicality knock me out of being a top reviewer. A lot of people think receiving a free copy of the book will undermine the review in some way but it doesn’t or shouldn’t. People have been freelance and professional reviewers since time out of mind. They read print books sent to them from publishers and were never charged or expected to pay for the book and yes, they had to include the disclaimer. That’s the information I have. I know some try to skirt that disclaimer but that’s sort of dishonest in my opinion. Full disclosure from the start is always the best way to go.

    • Rich Meyer says:

      Beyond the rules of the individual websites, various US states have various legal provisions covering this sort of transparency. I believe there are similar rules on a national level as well (but don’t quote me on that). It’s all a matter of being given something of value in return for something else. A book apparently has a modicum of value in the eyes of the law. 🙂

      I never understood the problem myself. What’s the big deal saying you were given a copy of the book? Personally, I think it shows a bit of integrity on the reviewer’s part, and shows that the author is willing to go to lengths to get his work properly reviewed.

      Most professional reviewers, say those at the New York Times Book Review, don’t pay for the books they review – they get ARC’s. And don’t get me started on the miasma that is Kirkus…

  22. Julie, this was such an interesting post, and you did absolutely the right thing by including the disclaimer in the review. I would not change or remove it at all. People can be idiots, no question. I’m very proud to be an independent author, and I have far more professional and supportive colleagues than I believe I would ever have had if I were not independent. (Including you and many of the authors who’ve chimed in on this page, and for whom I have the utmost respect!)

    It takes a lot of work and commitment to not only create, but also to market a work of art, be it film, music, visual art, or writing. Most people who didn’t care enough to properly edit and package their work aren’t going to work hard to sell it, either. I read a lot of independent authors’ novels through such sites as this one – eNovel Authors at Work – and others, like Book Review Depot (Author’s Cave.) The quality of the books is first rate. Some of them are truly brilliant. Really, unless an author can’t face the effort of marketing and promotion at all, I think there is more and more advantage to being independent. And remember, successful independent authors don’t have to worry about ending up in the remainders bin at WalMart! 🙂

    • Well said!! Many people like yourself chose to publish independently. There are so many advantages. More and more traditionally published authors are trying the independent route these days and so again, this is author’s attitude is very dated. Yes, you have to work harder to promote, but maybe it means more to you in the end.

  23. Why is it that authors ask for reviews and then get angry if you don’t leave the review they “expected”? I always tell everyone I’m an indie. One of my blogs is called “Indie Lindy.” Another practice I find exasperating is “rubber-stamping,” where authors exchange five-star reviews for their books. What happened to integrity and self-respect? You made the right choice, Julie, by letting your review stand.

    • Thanks Linda! You nailed it. I’m not even going there today, but that is a huge pet peeve of mine and I encourage authors who feel the pressure to engage in this activity to avoid it. It won’t help you in the long run .

    • Rich Meyer says:

      I hear ya. The phrase I hate hate HATE seeing in a review request is anything along the lines of “will trade reviews”. Umm … no. Not gonna happen.

      I sincerely doubt that someone at that level of either desperation, asshattery, or naivete is going to like my stuff, and I’m probably not going to like their stuff either, especially since that phrase puts the author in the “You’re a big poozer” category in the back of my head.

  24. As a fellow reviewer I ALWAYS add “ARC received via xxxxx” at the end of my review. Its only those I’ve bought that I leave it out. I’m a blogger, and also add my reviews to amazon com and uk, goodreads,and B&N. Like you I send copy to author if I’ve received book that way. To me honesty and integrity is very important, and I want to make it clear that my review is unaffected by whether or not I’ve received a review copy. Its also a requirement of most sites, certainly Amazon. My reviewer status helps me get more books, and shows authors and readers I take my job seriously. I’ve finally made it into top 1000 in US listings, have been in the top 1000 in UK for some time now, and to me that means people that read my reviews recognise my honesty.
    As to the self publishing part: when I bought kindle number one around four years ago I instantly hit the free books lists on amazon and downloaded loads. Of course lots were self published and full of errors, and yet within a year or so I noticed a kind of self policing had happened, and standards rose considerably. Now I find it hard to tell the difference, in fact I’d say there isn’t any…so Indie authors should be proud. I find errors in publishing house books – no-one is perfect, and I make them too…I look at keyboard and yet still hit wrong keys!I check after and still miss some. In the early days I even saw some Indie books had discalimers over errors – citing they couldn’t afford editor, or were dyslexic or similar. That’s no excuse to me, if you’re putting something out to sell make it the best you can, if you can’t afford editor rope in a group of freinds, family, buy a simple spellchecker for pc at least – there are free ones too. Grammar is a bit harder but simple spellings – easy to correct if you take the time.
    I don’t add publishing info to my review – I used to, but it’s there when anyone goes to buy a book, so i decided it was superfluous ( and saved me looking it up!!)
    I’d only ever edit a review if an author or reader felt i’d put a spoiler in – I try hard not to, but one author and one reader have asked me to take a line out. I’ve done around 800 or so reviews so I’m happy with that.
    As for the expecting 4 or 5 stars reviews…gahhh. Only this week I’ve had an author request that anything less than 4 not be posted on early reviews of new book as “it hurts the listing for anything less”….I hate to be told in this way what i should or shouldn’t do. If you beleive in your book then let it find it’s natural level.

  25. Jeanne,
    Thanks for commenting. I love that another AZ reviewer has weighed in here. I got into the habit of posting the publisher information for a couple of reasons. I review for Netgalley and Edelweiss and they used to a hint around that it was good form to include the publisher info in the review. Remember that these two sites mainly cater to the Big 5 so I understand why they would want that done. The second reason is that I can ‘tag’ the publisher in my blog post so they do know the book is being promoted and that helps me gain more approvals. I also ‘tag’ people on social media sites like FB which gets me more visitors and page views and “likes” all of which works in my favor but also in the favor of the author and their book promo. I am still learning the value of ‘tags’ and how to use them. In just the past month I have been given some really great advice about how FB works when it comes to links and tags and I have seen my blog and FB page traffic and ‘Likes” nearly triple. So, that is why I make sure to include the pub info and not because I’m trying to “devalue” someone’s work. That’s nuts. I think the publisher info should be out there in plain site at all times. You should not have to search it out. To me that’s just basic information. Times have changed, or so I thought. As to the request to avoid posting a review if you can’t give it a four or five star review, I have had that come up before too. If it is a book I am reviewing for a blog tour I can understand that request. The author is paying the tour company for promotions and a review that gets 3 or less stars really negates the purpose. So, of course I have had to bow out of reviews on several occasions. Refreshingly, I have had to let tours know that I can only give a book three stars and I have heard back from many authors saying to post the review anyway. If I get a request from an individual personally and they ask me to post only a four or five star review I will play it by ear. The truth is the low ratings on a book that does not have a lot of reviews yet does actually have an effect on the rank and therefore the sales. So, I send the review to the author/publisher if it’s not at least a three star review. I still write the review but will hold off on posting it until the author or publisher has a chance to react to it. I did my job by reading and reviewing. I am not really required to promote if I don’t want to. Usually, that’ s a given, but if the newbie is nervous I try to let them decide if this is what they really want to do or if they want to do some revisions etc. I only do that if it’s a new author, not with pros or well established authors. They know how it works and will have to live with it. I had one author ask me to remove a line in my review because he thought I had included a spoiler. When I went back and looked the line he objected to was in the book’s prologue. So, we talked it over and he decided to leave it. Other than that, this odd request was the only other one I’ve had.
    I enjoyed your post. If would like to look me up on FB, Google+, and twitter I would love to have someone to bounce ideas off of and just share ideas and experiences with. I have a couple of new stories that would have the hair standing up on Jackie’s neck. LOL!!

  26. sue ward says:

    WOW there has been a lot posted since I was here!

    I am in the UK [as Jackie knows] and have been a compulsive reader since the year dot, I am now 55 yrs old, read over 300 books so far this year, and reviewed! I have some problems being a reviewer which at the start I took to heart, but now, I understand things a lot better but I won’t budge on my review. An authors book is owned by the AUTHOR and what they have written in its pages is 100% theirs. MY review is MY words and 100% my thoughts. I am entitled to my thoughts on a book. I am careful not to upset, but sometimes it cannot be avoided, I usually say ‘this book didn’t work for me because….or…this book didn’t hold my attention because…. but never directly horrid. That is not my style. Let me loose and I can be sarcastic LOL LOL but I hold it back…I do! I do! 🙂

    On the other hand, I have read some FANTASTIC BOOKS. Ones that I never would have read.

    I do actually purchase books. I almost always say where my source of book came from. If it was a gift from the author, sent to me by the author [they land in my email at times!] requested I read it by the author, Net Galley, or through my letter box. I do not write ARC anymore. I don’t rush to read an ARC anymore either. I used to. I found its a crafty way to get your book read faster by reviewers like me that have LOOONG LISTS, so I have got wiser in this field. I am doing this freely, in my own time, unrushed [I used to panic] but now I realise that I have to have a life and not worry about getting the next book read and reviewed. I do it not for FREE BOOKS as I have a pile of my own and am happy to purchase books I do actually have a list of TBR that are personal to me [which go on the back burner most times now] because I want to help authors. One thing I will stand firm on though, I won’t be rushed, I won’t be ‘got at’ for my review if an author doesn’t agree. My take on that is, Maybe your book didn’t work for me……just because an author has 50 SUPER REVIEWS 5* and I come along and give it a 3* doesn’t mean its the end of the world. Its MY take on the read, we cannot all be the same. IF you ask me to read and review it, that is what you get from me, HONESTY without being horrible. Nothing personal. I can read several books by the same author. I have recently, I loved her first 4 books, the 5th book, nope, too rushed. Didn’t work for me. Doesn’t stop me from reading her 6th book. I really think some authors should loosen up a bit, relax more. I do think some authors should be careful who they pass their books to, I think also they should follow the reader up after 3 months see how they are fixed without hassle though. Known regular reviewers always have such a pile, sometimes books can get overlooked. From a reviewers POV, I enjoy what I do. I enjoy reading, this in turn helps the newer authors/writers to be seen. I run an authors facebook page with a friend [2 friends promote with authors] we behind the scenes when asked promote your books wherever we can on our media social outlets. We have 2 friends read along with us [where we add our reviews] 2 friends pimp your books [where we promote any books we are asked or tours that we are asked to join] we both have blogs, daily active ones with a huge following, so your books WILL be seen. Twitter, google+ Pinterest, and other places. We try our best and all we ask is for patience. I really do think though:

    1. Authors need to get their book ‘out there’ and its hard, I realize that so my little bit is just a drop in a big ocean.
    2. I do wish there wasn’t so much fuss and bother among some authors trying to get noticed in a negative way [I won’t go into detail] but when they do this, I don’t bother anymore, drama on facebook is not my style [not directed at me, just cattiness and making things up to get sympathy like pulling books because they didn’t like a review from someone or moaning because they got a bad review from someone, take it on the chin and move on, learn from it, learn that not EVERYONE can give you a 5* rating]

    3. Its good to get varied ratings from 2* and up, this way, it looks more normal!!! getting 5*’s makes me think twice about buying a book!

    4. Relax, and enjoy your journey.

    1. Don’t ever be nasty, be tactful if you didn’t like the book or couldn’t finish it.

    2. Stand by what you believe in. Your review belongs to you.

    3. Understand that authors are creators and every artist has a soft spot for their work. I always liken it to the X factor. You are either a Simon Cowell and direct or you are one of the other judges who don’t want to upset anyone so accept EVERYONE. You are not doing anyone any favors, remember you have a reputation to as well as the author.

    4. Never change your review when asked to do so. If it gets out of hand………delete it…..and never read a book for them again.

    Sorry I am direct, but this is how I feel about certain things after doing this for over 2 years LOL

  27. Rosie Dean says:

    Well…I am very happy to be an independent author. In the last few weeks, I received an offer from a publisher to take on my first three books. The offer was unexpected so, for two weeks, I agonized over whether or not to accept it. Hadn’t I spent years just waiting for that opportunity? However, I had been an indie for less than a year, and was really enjoying the process. I had ideas for future promotions and hadn’t realized how much I liked being an indie author until the possibility of losing control over my work hove into view. So I explained my uncertainty and declined the offer. They were very good about it and suggested the door was still open, should I change my mind in the future.

    More and more, I read about indie authors doing well, and I’m very proud to be in that group. I invested in professional editing services and professional cover design, so that I would be going to market with the best product I could produce. It’s a business, after all, and businesses fail if they are not professional in their approach.

    I have no idea whether perceptions vary from country to country.

    I am not surprised by the author’s request, but find it a little naive. Even the big publishing houses send complimentary copies to magazines and newspapers for review. Journalists don’t just pick a book they fancy off the shelf and review it. What’s more, big retailers are PAID by publishers to put their authors’ books in the Top 100 shelves. (Until recently, I naively thought they genuinely were the top 100 books. Anybody else not know that?)

    You have posted an honest review. I’d be inclined to say if she wants any of the review deleted, you would prefer to take the whole thing down. Because she’s asking you to deny your professional role as a reviewer.

    Nuff said!

  28. Amy Vansant says:

    I have no problem being an Indie (quite the opposite) and have no plans to shop around future books, but I DO understand the woman’s thought process. I’ve had several books offered to me for reviews that were so bad or SO riddled with mistakes I could barely read them. The fact that “anybody” can publish is both great and a problem. “Normal” people, who aren’t writers often DO assume indie books won’t be as good as big house books. WE know there are gems out there, but the perception isn’t always on our side. And yeah, that makes me cranky sometimes.

    But do I think you should have to edit your review? No. It’s your review. You can say no or you can remove it. Or you can edit it if you want. I don’t argue about much of anything anymore unless I can’t even PICTURE how the other person could feel differently or their opinion is so WILDLY different than mine as to offend my personal code!

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