Monday, 29 July 2013

An open letter from an author to book reviewers…

When you're an author, there's nothing more upsetting than getting bad reviews.

When it's from someone who just didn't like your book and gives perfectly valid reasons, you can accept it. But when it comes from someone who gives unreasonable reasons, beyond the author's control for not liking your book, it seems unfair.

1. It's unfair to mark books down because of how much they cost because despite what people think, authors don't make a lot of money per book and unless it's self-published on Kindle they don't get to set the price either.

FACT - Amazon get as much as 70 percent off the cover price of a paperback or hardback book. Yes, 70 percent. That means if the book sells for 7 dollars they pay 2 dollars 21 cents for a book. If it sells for 7 UK pounds, they only pay 2 pounds 21 pence.

FACT - Bookshops can also get discounts of around 50 per cent. Some may get more.
At a standard ten percent royalty rate, that means writers get 21 cents or 21 pence a book. It's not a lot for all the work that goes into writing a book.

These calculations apply to traditional, royalty paid publishing. Self-published authors also face deductions. On Amazon, those who use Kindle Direct, either get 70 percent or 35 percent royalties on the price of their own book. And there may be tax to pay too.

2. Pay attention to genre.
It's unfair to read say a romance novel and then give it a poor rating because you don't like romance novels. Steer clear of genres you hate. An author pal got a stinker of a 2 star review on Amazon because he'd written a book set on a spaceship and the reviewer said they hated the fact it was set on a spaceship.

I got a one star review for Hell To Pay that the reviewer posted everywhere. When I looked at all the books she read they all seemed to be erotic fiction. My books is billed as a revenge thriller and has a bloody hand on the cover and not a naked man:) In no terms could it be described as erotic fiction.

3. Before you leave a review, look at how many pages a book has.
One of the reasons someone gave me a bad review for Hell To Pay, was they said it was a short novel. The book is a short novel - it's a novella - and if you think it's too expensive see point one about traditionally published authors not setting the price of their own books.

4. It's unfair to give a bad review because you're from the UK and the book is written in American English, or vice versa. A correct spelling in the UK is a wrong spelling in the USA.

Fact - Most of the big publishing companies don't even bother to change American English to UK English when they sell books in the UK. This means that UK readers can read books in both their English and American English. The opposite doesn't seem to be true, but that's not the author's fault.

5. Look at where the books are set and expect characters to use national phrases.
For instance, in Scotland where I live, we say "no" instead of not. As in "that's no fair" and "I'm no doing that."
This little quirk makes the way people talk authentic without going overboard.

In Hell To Pay I used that phrase a few times and I just know people will read it (like one reviewer) and say it's a spelling mistake. It isn't.

To sum up...
In most cases, reviewers have paid their money or have devoted their time to reading a book they were given to review, and are entitled to their opinion, but there has to be an element of fairness. And, I believe that most reviewers are fair.

If I hadn't a long history of publication, I'd have been totally devastated by the withering review I got. But other authors might have been so crushed they'd never have written anything again and readers would miss out on their next book that even the harshest reviewers would call a gem.

Reviewers, authors love you, but only when you play fair.


  1. Good post, Jenny. I always get a bit pissed off when reading reviews and someone mentions a point that has nothing to do with the book.

    “I didn’t like this book because the main character – a 35-year old woman – likes a 35-year old woman who hates peas I find this highly unlikely.”

    Makes me want to wring ‘em by the neck, and they aren’t even reviewing my work!

    Must be very frustrating after all the hard work you’ve put in.

  2. Thanks for your support, Steven. Most reviewers are fair, but there seem to be some that just want to hate your book, for whatever reason. One person I know, wouldn't like my book on Facebook because they didn't like the cover.

  3. I agree with everything you say. Anyway, who says that book reviewers are even qualified to review books let alone good at it? Doh.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Bob:)