How do you handle reviews that get your book wrong?

Since my memoir was self published in Oct., I've paid for 6 or 7 reviews from popular and well known review sites. Several of them were bad in the sense that it was obvious the reviewer didn't either fully read the book or just skimmed over as quickly as possible. Fortunately, my faith was restored when I received 2 or 3 reviews where I can see the reviewer actually read the whole thing.

It was very frustrating, I paid for my book to be read. This latest incident was over the top- the reviewer copied and pasted one or two sentences from the synopsis found on the back cover of my book at the beginning of each paragraph followed by one or two sentences he wrote that didn't really show he read the book. Not only that, but in each paragraph he made references that weren't even in my book. I wrote him an email and let him know and he followed up his review with the corrections I sent him, but then got one of those wrong!

I would love to give him a piece of my mind, but he's a local reviewer here in my city and I'm afraid of backlash that would just make me look like I'm a whining author. I don't want to turn off any possible connections in my hometown.

How do you handle it when it's so obvious the reviewer didn't even read your book?

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Why are you paying for reviews? Readers will review your book for simply a free copy (even ebook is fine).

Hi Christine,

YA and fiction seem to be the most popular books for reviewers and the few I've found that will review travel memoir/narrative either told me they weren't interested or never responded. I did find 2 that have offered to read the book when they have time, but there's no guarantee they will read it.

I've found reviewers who say they will read memoir, but their main focus is still fiction and I prefer someone to review it who actually enjoys this genre.

Another uphill battle is having a self published book that, although it has been professionally edited many times, the few reviewers who are interested in my genre won't consider it. Even if I explain that the book has been edited. And, reading some of the self published work out there, I can totally understand why.

For me, it was much easier to pay for reviewers who would paste the reviews on other sites giving me advertising. Which, in the case of this local reviewer, I thought was fair enough (I'm also a small business owner so know how expensive advertising can be)- but he still should have read the book.

You should keep trying to find people to review your book for free. Search the groups here and you will find posts for reviewers who are willing to review your book in exchange for a free copy. They post their blog link and if you look at their preferred genres on their blog, you can contact the ones who accept nonfiction. You have to contact a lot of reviewers to get a few reviews, but it's worth it. My books are poetry, nonfiction (2), and autobiography and I have several reviews for each of mine. Even if the reviewers don't get to your book right away, they might in the future (sometimes you will have to wait months because they have a list of books to review before yours), but you should still continue to try to find reviewers (for free). I just think it's completely unnecessary to pay for reviews.

Thanks for the feedback. I spent many long hours doing that on this site, and see your point. What's done is done, I've already paid for the reviews. And, believe me, I'm constantly perusing sites looking for someone to review my particular genre.

I don't plan on paying for other reviews, I choose specific ones for a reason and that portion is complete. As I mentioned before, I have found a couple readers, but have yet to hear back which I know is common since they are probably swamped.

Back to the original question, I would still like to know how someone has handled a similar situation.

That's good that you're still seeking reviews for your book from readers and don't plan on paying for them in the future, especially since you got reviewers that don't read your book before they review it. If they are getting paid for reviewing, they are probably trying to make more money by not fully reading the book so that they can move on to their next profits.

Readers that review books for free typically will only review a book if they are interested in it and will therefore will finish the book and give a fair review. As far as the reviewer "getting the book wrong," I don't believe there is a right/wrong to a reader's perspective of a book. A review is simply that - the reader's perspective, and each reader will view your book differently.

So, I wouldn't worry about reviews you don't agree with and/or negative reviews, because they are inevitable. If your books are on Amazon, you can comment on the review and/or mark it as not helpful and it will be pushed down the list or eliminated completely if enough people mark it as not helpful. I've seen authors comment on their reviews if they were low in ratings and inaccurate, to defend their book. I'm not sure if this is a good idea though, because authors are supposed to accept a review no matter what it says, but it is still an option.

Thanks Christine. I don't worry with reviews that are negative or that I don't agree with, in all honesty, most of my reviews have been good.

My issue is when details of the book are completely incorrect. Here are just a few examples; that I was a young teenager and left my mother's house (I was 20 and living with 4 roommates), going on a family vacation out West (we were very poor growing up and didn't take any vacations), John Elway purchasing a meal at a restaurant for me and a traveling companion (he purchased coffee at a truck stop) or seeing a man shot and killed (I saw a man being knifed).

So, they are small details but not what happened in the story. As I wrote in my initial question, the one reviewer who had every detail wrong, I did write him a letter about it because that was just too much.

I agree, I don't want to sound like a nit-picky  writer. The reason I wrote the initial post was because I would like to hear from others who have been in the same situation have handled it and how that went.

Since you did end up paying the reviewers, you should politely write and let them know that  their reviews need to be more detailed (>100 words), honest, and balanced. If they refuse, you should blacklist them on author forums so others can avoid these kinds of reviewers. I just published my first novel and am trying to partner with other writers to swap reviews. Both parties have to promise to read the book and write an honest and balanced review, for this to work. 

May not be what you want to hear but I find poetic justice in this. Paid reviews are bad news, sure you may get some good reviews to show about, but most readers won't trust them if they find out you paid. 

I can understand that it can be hard to find reviewers, but I think you should keep trying to get the honest (and free) reviews. 

As for what to do, as you paid, I'd send a polite e-mail highlighting the inconsistencies and saying that you are not satisfied  Just keep it polite and to the facts, don't argue with the opinions. The reviewer might be shamed into actually reading it. 

Re: the latest incident... Did you contact the Editor or Publisher of the publication?  If you can demonstrate to him/her that the reviewer did a poor or inaccurate job on the review, you might either receive a refund or have the funds you paid used for an advertisement for your book.  Best, Joseph

This is exactly what I was going to say. Good idea or not it was a business transaction and the reviewer did not live up to their end. Of course, that is if the terms of the initial transaction were clear.

Thanks for your input! This reviewer also works as an editor for a couple different local publications. As I mentioned in my first post at the top, I contacted him about the changes and he made a follow-up email with corrections. Part of the cost of the review covered having my book listed in several of the publications, both in print and online.

I've decided against telling him I want my money back since my book has already been advertised now in several local publications and the review wasn't that expensive, so I see it as paying for the adverts. He's well known in the local author community and I'm hesitant about putting up a big stink. It would be a he said/she said argument.

I can definitely relate to your disappointment in the false descriptions of your book. That being said, I think that it is probably best if you cut your losses and move on. It is never a good idea to burn bridges with a potential advertiser, even if you never use this particular reviewer again.

As far as details are concerned, I think it is important to remember that reviewers are only human and have not spent nearly the amount of time as you have with your book, especially in the case of a memoir. Of course, your case could be an example of a guy simply out to make a buck, but I too have unintentionally misquoted or confused details of a novel in my written review. One time, I even called a character by the wrong name! Fortunately I sent the publisher a copy of my review and was able to correct my mistake before it was published.

Best of luck in finding more reviewers and exposure for your book. You may want to check out GoodReads for groups who specifically read memoirs. Social networking can be an extremely valuable tool for promotion. If I can ever help you in any way, feel free to contact me. I'd be happy to share your info with my network of bloggers if you're interest.



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