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If You Don’t Want an Honest Review, Don’t Ask Me to Write One
I’m an educator and an editor: I don’t mean to be harsh, but I have a red pen in my mind when I read. Can’t turn it off. Is every piece of my own writing perfect? Not by a long shot. HOWEVER, my proofreading skills, grammar-checking and spelling are excellent, particularly when applied to others’ writing.
I used to teach English writing, grammar and spelling. I have worked as an editor, proofreader and paid writer. I also used to teach kids, teens and adults, all grades, many subjects, pre-Kindergarten through graduate school, including English to Speakers of other Languages (ESL) and literacy/numeracy to adults with severe learning disabilities. I used to train/supervise and evaluate student teachers and classroom teachers. I have a B.A., master’s and doctorate in education, specializing in multicultural and teacher education.
I have had nonfiction, articles, poetry, and short fiction published and plays produced prior to self-publishing my sci-fi/romance ebooks. I write The Spanners Series‘ ebooks intentionally in the present tense, BTW, which confounds many readers and reviewers until they understand the reasons.
Degrees are no guarantee of excellence in any area, as we all know, nor is quantity of publications any indication of quality. My education and experiences are important to note, however, for background.
As a reader: I used to read about 10 books PER WEEK for dozens of years, mostly fiction. Now I read less, but mostly fiction, with some select nonfiction and recently, online pieces and blogs.
I know some stuff.
Current state of my life…
I’m also very busy. I rarely even agree to attempt a review because I’m so busy.
I’m therefore justifiably extremely picky about what I choose to read and even pickier about what I decide to review.
So, if I agree to review your book but I find that it is not well-written, not carefully edited or proofread, or otherwise NOT going to be getting a stellar review from me, I first will email you and explain my criticisms. Sometimes, I will do your critique in detail, at no small loss to my own writing time, because I truly wish to be helpful. I might not even be able to finish your book; it could be that bad.
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When I review your book and it’s not very good news for you…
I will tell you that I usually get paid $100 for these kinds of critiques. I am not joking. I am also not extorting you, just making a point and asking for you to share the wealth, if you ever have any. Paypal button is on my website. You can donate $1, out of respect.
Because, if I do deign to finish your book (because your bad writing and many mistakes hurt my eyes, you should realize that I am doing you a HUGE favor to keep reading under those circumstances; imagine a musician having to listen to someone sing who is tone-deaf!), be amazed. If I further agree to review your flawed tome, the FIRST proper response from you, the author, is: THANK YOU, Sally.
How you could best react to my comments about your book…
If you are serious about being a writer and intend to continue, you should express your eagerness to consider my critique carefully. Think about how you can try to make corrections, do revisions, improve in the future. Do SOMETHING that makes me believe that I haven’t wasted my time.
If you have received only positive reviews up to this point while my criticisms are warranted and accurate, then your other “reviewers” have a very poor professional “eye” or are lying to you to “spare your feelings.” They did you a grave disservice and misled you horribly.
That is not my fault. I am pointing this out so you’ll know whose opinions to trust.
Do not hide behind those “good” reviews and do not make excuses. Do not whine about being “new” or “inexperienced.” Do not complain to me that you did not have enough money to hire an editor or proofreader, so you did it yourself or used your cousin.
If your book is not ready for publication, DO NOT PUBLISH IT. Really.
Honestly: I have given this a lot of thought before I tell you that your book is not currently good enough to merit a positive review. I give you my professional reasons for assigning your book its low rating.
What not to do when you get my email…
- Do not call me names. (Seriously?)
- Do not act as though I have offended you personally by critiquing your writing professionally.
- Do not tell me you have now gone to read my book or my reviews (but not before this???) and have determined from your brief perusal (my books are over 130K words or 300 pages long) that you do not respect me or my writing and, therefore, can ignore what I’m telling you.
- Do not tell me not to contact you and then keep emailing me or following my blog, posting about my review on YOUR blog and “calling me out” as a bad reviewer or writer, just to make yourself feel better. Your behavior is beyond appalling. You ASKED ME FOR A REVIEW, remember?
- Do not trot out your credentials, degrees, numbers of previously published and much-loved books: I do not care. I am reading THIS one and reviewing THIS book and only this book, and my assessment stands.
- Do not tell me how much more you know than I do about_______________(fill in the blank). That is not relevant. This is not a competition. If you actually know that much about good writing but did not apply it to this book adequately, get going to do it better next time instead of wasting your energy deriding me for noticing all the ways that you did not apply your knowledge well in this book.
- Do not position yourself as my enemy, my judge or my combatant. What is your purpose in doing that? If my honest review of your book inspires you to denigrate me, a fellow author who donated her time and expertise to try to help you write better, there is a lot wrong with your approach to seeking and receiving reviews that I do not have the time or interest in detailing here.
News flash: Every negative review is NOT to be dismissed cavalierly by your declaration that your book “is not for everyone,” although some reviewers’ opinions certainly can be dismissed in that way. If I took the time to read and review your entire book (and almost always, I do NOT), then I thought (I hoped) that I would like your book. By definition, that means your book was written for me.
What’s true about me and you…
I am not a “troll.” I am not being unfair. I am not “slamming” you or your book. I take no pleasure in having to write a negative or mixed review. I agonize over what I know will hit you hard, especially if you have been surrounded by people telling you, sometimes for years, how great your writing is. Your writing might be entertaining, interesting or creative, and I probably already told you that. Great it is not.
I am an ethical, hard-working author who occasionally tutors writing, edits or proofreads (for money) and writes reviews (rarely, and always for free). If I mention to you that I do this for money, the “this” is not reviewing, it is my tutoring writers and editing. By taking the time not just to offer a review, but to email you (more than once, sometimes) and converse with you about specifics and ways you could improve, mistakes you made, recommendations I’m making, I have now ventured into the arena of work I usually get paid to perform.
I tell you that not to extort money from you, but to let you know that, if you find my insights valuable and you ever have “extra” money, I’d appreciate a donation that recognizes my having GIVEN you my professional expertise, having gone above and beyond what reviewers usually do. It’s an opportunity to respond with courtesy, not a requirement.
I respect most other authors tremendously. However, I am not reviewing your ideas or taking into account your desire for success, however strong they may be. I am professionally reviewing your book, author to author, editor to author, proofreader to author, educator to author.
If I have reviewed your book and you are dissatisfied with my opinions, suggestions or corrections, I strongly recommend you let it go. I will not engage with you beyond providing my critique. I do not want to get into a “flame war,” bloggers’ conflict, take sides, or other such middle-school-era nonsense.
I have writing to do.
If you are too thin-skinned (read: unprofessional), not ready, not willing to improve, AND, if you don’t know enough to respect my opinions and experience much less my expertise, so that, really, you do not want my honesty, DO NOT ASK ME TO REVIEW YOUR BOOK.
Ask your cousin.
Brilliant, m’Lady, Sally… if the review isn’t honest, it’s worthless:)
Thanks, Seumas. I wished all authors were like you!
Best to you!
What a great post, Sally. 🙂 To take the time to write up a critique is a fantastic thing to do. I do hope authors don’t really do those things you listed. Next book I finish, I’ll send to you and, if you finish reading it, I’d be more than happy to donate to your site for such great feedback. Or maybe I could be fairer and just pay you for a proper assessment?
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When your book is ready, send me an email, Dale, and I’ll check my schedule! sallyember AT yahoo DOT com
Thanks for your comments and Best to you!
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Reviewers have a duty to readers who will make choices based on their opinions. The integrity of every review is essential or a reviewer won’t be taken seriously. You’re very kind to give the author a choice about having a poor review posted. And the feedback is an invaluable gift. As an author, I thank you.
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Thank you so much, Wallace! I appreciate your visit and comment enormously.
Best to you,
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As a fellow book reviewer, I can definitely relate to this. It is never easy to write something critical if you are someone who truly cares about both books and people. The fact that you give thoughtful and thorough critiques is a wonderful thing to do.
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Thank you so much, Rivka. That means a lot to me!
Best to you,