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Jan 5, 2012

How To Not Handle Book Review Rejections

Posted by Wendy Ewurum  |  at  4:00 PM

About two months  ago I was approached by a relatively new facebook buddy on my page (feel free to like it by the way) . 
She wanted me to review her new book indicating she'd like to insert a comment from my review in the book cover. Perhaps she had already decided that the review would be favourable, I don't know. Anyway having read through the description and thinking it looked interesting I agreed and she sent the eBook.

It was on my third page of reading when I asked myself: "Wendy what have you got yourself into?". But I'm a resilient reader so I forged ahead thinking things will get better. Sadly it just wasn't happening. I was asking questions like: what is the point of having started writing this book? Why is it going nowhere slowly? Where is the substance? Why all these scenic descriptions? Will these characters do anything else other than fantasize about sex, Who did the formatting because this is the third time a paragraph is being repeated,? etc and so my questioning continued until I finally just gave up towards the middle.

So I had to decide, do I continue to the end and review it or do I tell this poor writer that I cannot review their book. Due to my cowardly nature I sent the following email to her:
Hi ...........,
I have a bit of bad news.
I've been reading your book for the last couple of days and I fear I will not be able to do a review of it for you. 
It's very awkward for me to write this to you but I am just finding it to not be my kind of read really. The genre is correct but there are just areas that need work.
I'm really sorry.
 This is the response I got on my Facebook inbox:
Dear Wendy
Well I'm sorry that you feel that way. I'm sorry there was a misunderstanding about my book. You should've told me that you only did paranormal reads, this would've saved me time and not have cost me an eBook.
I would appreciate if you removed it from your database. 

Anyway further to my defence, besides being a coward I really did not want to say her book was crap in even the most polite of manners because no matter how I put it, the rating would still have bordered between 1 and 2. I would not be proud to have a one rating on my blog for a new author, meaning at best their book is not my cup of tea and at worst it was not worth the time spent writing it.
I see no benefit to telling my readers that a book is crap perhaps irreparably bruising a new writer's  ego, especially when there are so many other indie and self pubbed authors whose books range from acceptable to awesome that I can give both positive and negative feedback about. 

My personal opinion is that the writer could have said thank you for getting back to me or not get back to me at all (no skin off my back) and at the most asked me what it is that I found needed improvement as I made it clear it was not a genre problem.

Now I have to go hrough my database removing all evidence of her book which by the way I already promoted and spend a good amount of time reading. 

Maybe I'm being sensitive but do you think this is the way for a writer to respond to potential critique?  
What would you have said if anything?

About the Author

Most know me as the author to Fabulosity Reads and in actual fact, that is the previous name of this blog. I have since then moved my books to a Wordpress self-hosted blog so that I can have a place to show a different side of me which I am equally passionate about and that is marketing and personal development. I hope you will love being here, watching me grow as I share and learn. My highest hope is that we will grown and learn together in all disciplines affecting our lives. I'd LUUURRRVE to hear from you, so don't be shy...


  1. I think you did the right thing. She's new, so she's very defensive of her first book. But she also needs to be able to handle constructive criticism. I'd rather someone told me they didn't care for it (and why) and not posted a bad review!
    Besides, eBooks don't cost anything, so that part really confuses me.

  2. No.

    As hard as it is, a writer needs to hold back from comment on reviews. ESPECIALLY negative ones.

    I've had a similar response once when someone asked me to beta read for them, and after I had a look at the opening page and realised that a) it was really not my thing and b) it was awful, I sent him a polite note saying that there were flaws that needed some work and pointed him in the direction of some good writing forums and links. I too was asked to remove all evidence of his precious work from my computer, as if I was planning on stealing it or something.

    That attitude is useless to a writer, and when it seeps through into a later career, it can have horrible results. (Anyone remember Anne Rice's legendary amazon essay rant? Yeah.)

    Basic rule for writers: say thank you, shut up, and move on. It's not easy, and I *know* that, but we need to clamp down on that urge to explain things or worse - correct the reviewer - and focus on the stuff we can fix, like our work.

  3. For me you did the right thing, Wendy. Personally I would rather get a 'no review' rather than a 'bad review' if the book is not the reviewer's cup of tea. Hopefully with time the author will learn the wisdom of your action.

    Don't sweat it. :)

  4. First of all, authors should be extremely grateful to have you review their books. Secondly, if your reviews are going to carry any weight, you have to be honest. You were considerate and kind to tell the author how you felt before publishing your review. We all need editors and bad reviews to improve. You were a teacher and that is a great role for you.
    Katie Roberta Stevens

  5. Hey Wendy!
    Finally I made it over this way. Awesome post. Clear, direct, and of course respected.

    I'm with Kiru too. Given that the book was *gifted* you should be applauded twice. Yep, don't sweat it. Writers are no different than anyone else. Up and down and all around like all the rest of the beliefs and opinions out there;-)

  6. Yes I agree with all of you. I did not start book reviews to trash writers, I would feel terrible about doing that to the person who asked for my help with a review. So I think as much as it may be misunderstood, you guys are right. It is the lesser of two evils.

  7. Hmm... Good question. I probably might have considered blasting the writer. But then, that's one good reason why I don't do reviews.

    I'm just not cut out for the diplomatic games required when I don't like what I've read.


  8. RYCJ gave me the giggles earlier as always but you've just done it again Mishal...LOOOLest

  9. I always find it so hard to tell an author that their book needs work. Some authors are so gracious but others are NOT. I think you handled it beautifully. Kudos.

  10. I guess it goes with the territory. Usually before I say yes to an ebook review, I go to Amazon and grab the sample so I know what I'm getting into before saying yes.

    You did the right thing though. Not everybody would be that diplomatic.

  11. You handled the situation very professionally. Rather than post a negative review you contacted the author to let her know that you were having problems with the book. As an author, I know I would have been most grateful for your courtesy. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion after all. And ebooks don't cost a cent to giveaway for a review so I don't get that!! Here is a post i have on the same subject -

    I would be more than happy for you to leave a comment there and send people back to your blog post.

    Patti :)

  12. hey Dana, awesome seeing you. did I wish you happy new year? If not I wish you more prosperity than you can handle.

    J.L That's a brilliant idea. I will make a point of doing that from now on.

    @ Patti, you have a beautiful blog. Loved it.

  13. Hi Wendy! I think your reply was very diplomatic. I, too, would rather receive your response than a bad review. I think that if we ask someone to read our book and leave a review if they like it, then that leaves the reader/reviewer off the hook as far as having to write an awkward email to the author trying to let them down easy as far as not reviewing their book. You shouldn't feel obligated to write a review if you're uncomfortable with it.

    And it's true that no matter how bad we want to respond as authors, it's best that we don't comment at all. We need to realize that not everyone is going to like our work.

    Your post also brings up a problem with self-publishers these days, writers whose work isn't ready to be published yet. And if the plot rocks and everything else is right on, then for Pete's sake, it's just as important to get the formatting correct.

    I tested the waters with three short stories for kids and nearly lost my mind uploading it onto Kindle, proofing it, finding formatting problems, re-doing it. Finally got it to where there were just a couple little things and tried to fix them, uploaded it, and then it screwed it up more, indenting where it shouldn't have. It was insane. I paid someone to format it before putting it on Smashwords and learned my lesson - I suck at formatting and technology and need a professional's help.

    And an editor/proofreader is a must, too, so the reader isn't distracted by all the punctuation errors, etc.

    Happy New Year, Wendy!

  14. Hi,

    Right thing to say the book was wrong for you, if that's how you felt about it! The way I get round books that fail to rock my boat is quite simple:

    a) I only give a brief summary of any book inclusive introduction i.e. witty lyrical prose, literary slant, steamy content, engaging characters, which is the professional way to review books: as I did for a famous magazine in my younger days.
    b) no spoilers
    c) no personal likes or dislikes: one man's meat another's poison and I could well ruin said author's credibility by writing a critique as opposed to review, i.e. Book Critic Vs Book Reviewer.
    d) If the book was awful no comment on characters.
    e) If the book was great I mention lead character personae.
    f) Wrapped up in no more than 130 word count.

    When I was a professional book reviewer for a magazine of newspaper, more often than not the books I received were pre-print proofs: no fancy cover, loads of typos and spelling mistakes! In some ways this is a cunning ploy by publishers so that a reviewer is forced to make allowances for these errors, for it is assumed all errors will be corrected before the book goes to final print and acquires its glossy cover.


  15. You are not being overly sensitive. You did a very kind thing and you should not be rebuked for it.

    I hope when my first book comes out I wont have this attitude. It's so sad. I've received bad reviews from critiquers before and never had I ever said anything negative back to them because they are only trying to do me a favor. They are trying to help me.

  16. You are far too open minded and progressive Clarissa. I don't see ant fear of such a response from you.

  17. It's like you've read my mind Wendy! I've been mulling over this issue for a while now because I've gotten a few similar review requests for books that I believe just aren't ready for publication. At least you had the guts and the courtesy to respond before putting up a negative review or not reviewing the book at all. I'm still sitting on my reviews (yes, I am a wuss).

    Like the other comments, I think new authors should be grateful and take the constructive criticism with a bit of grace an humility. Bad formatting is a massive problem with an ebook and if someone was willing to help me out with that I'd be thanking them instead of getting defensive. I think the comment about the cost of an ebook might be a guilt tactic. It makes it even harder when it's someone you've gotten friendly with. Sometimes, being a book blogger is frought with hurdles.

  18. You can say that again Lan. frought all the way. I hope in future that other writers will appreciate the effort because you're right, its so easy to just ignore it and forget you ever heard from them. But then I'm left with the guilt. This brings me to another point that I want to discuss perhaps I'll send you an email and you can post on it here if you'd be interested.

  19. Wendy: You don't need to tell me about guilt! I have a whole folder of review requests just sitting there taunting me. Feel free to email me whenever you like.

  20. Well, my guess is that she was devastated by the rejection. But I hope she realizes that a rejection in private is so much better than a rejection in public. I hope she thinks about it over time and comes to realize what a favor you did her.

  21. I appreciate honesty from others, and I expect it from myself. You did the right thing.


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