I recently accepted an eBook from a PR company to review. After accepting the eBook, I was requested not to post my review on Amazon if the book receives a rating of less than 4 stars from me as it will not "benefit the author". I have not yet written my review, but it will definitely be a mainly negative review. I can't believe how incoherent the story was in the beginning...
I checked the Amazon page for the book, and all I see are 4-star ratings. It's unbelievable since this is one of the worst books I've had to review. I have not yet replied to the email from the publicist. But what should I do? The reviews on Amazon are giving a false impression of the book. Personally, I don't know why, but I don't feel right not posting my review in Amazon... What should I do? If this were you, how would you reply the publicist?
I think there are a couple factors at work here...
On one hand, you've got an increase in online book sales. Not just e-books, of course, but even regular Amazon purchases, where you can't really pick up a book and flip through it to see whether you think you'll like it before you buy it. Reviews become important because not all books have previews.
At the same time, we're in the middle of an economic recession, and people have less money to spend on books than they normally would. Who's going to drop $30 on a new hardcover if they don't already have some idea of whether or not it's going to be enjoyable?
1) Not every book has sample chapters and excerpts available online. In fact, I think that the samples/excerpts of half or more books published each year aren't available online. Online availability is subjective based on the author and publisher, IMO.
2) Not everyone can read eBooks. Before I got my Kindle, I avoided reading eBooks as much as possible. It was just too strenuous for my eyes when I read eBooks on my laptop. As a person not living in the US, I always think twice and thrice before buying books from the bookstore or one of the online book sites. It costs like above 50 bucks for a book. This being said, I definitely want to know if a book is good or not before buying it.
I don't think that the number of reviews matter so much as the quality thereof. It doesn't even matter if the review is entirely positive, provided it contains the reasons why someone may or may not like the book. A five star review saying "This is great!" tells me nothing at all about the book. I'd sooner buy a book with only two or three reviews that are actually helpful than with twenty positive reviews or negative reviews that say nothing. It's especially helpful when there's no preview on Amazon for a book, which happens a lot. Getting reviews shouldn't just be the author's job though, but something publishers help with as well. It's not about buying reviews, but rather getting your book out there so that people review.
I'm one of the people out there that doesn't have a Kindle/Nook yet, so e-book prices aren't a factor in my book-buying decision (although my mother has one, and complains that books from major publishers cost almost the same as a paperback). I think there are a lot of people out there still who don't own e-readers yet.
I've worked with her on a couple of other tours before, but they were guest post stops so I did not encounter this problem with her until this book tour. She replied my email this morning. I'm 100% sure she won't be sending any tour pitches along my way again.
I don't know if the author is aware of what's going on...
It's interesting too because every publisher whom I've accepted review copies from tells me outright that they're asking for an honest opinion, and that if I don't like the book I can say so. To me, that shows that the publisher is confident of the books that they're putting out there.
You may want to let the author know what's going on, if you have his/her contact info. It's something they might want to know before going to that publisher again.
Even if the publisher doesn't send anything else to you, they don't sound like the type of publisher that you want to be working with anyway. There are others out there that I'm sure would be glad to work with you, and will conduct themselves more ethically.
I think that when we are given a book to review it should be an honest review and it is very wrong for the PR company to ask for reviews of only 4 stars or above! They seem to me like they are trying to censor your opinion, what happened to freedom of speech? I mean yes there's no reason to be nasty about a book but surely a little constructive criticism is a good thing?
I would be tempted to put an honest review on your own blog and elsewhere on other sites so us readers know what we are buying! if they do not want your honest review I think I would say its an honest review or no review at all!
Good luck with it
I'm not really sure about the assumptions part, but if it is true, then I'm probably one of the minority who don't believe that all 5-star reviews are false. I've written three or four 5-star reviews. Yes, I've seen 5-star reviews that are false, but the majority of them are easy to spot. Like there was one with just the description of the book. That was pretty clear. For me, I take a 5-star review as real when I see the reviewer expounding on the various aspects (positive they may be) of the book.
Isn't it quite a fallen world when no one has an idea what honest means? :) In all fairness, not everyone has negative opinions of reviews. Even the bestselling author and the best indie author receives negative reviews. Reviews are well, reviews. Not all reviews are false. Not everyone assumes that 5-star reviews are false. We need to give the benefit of doubt to an author and book.
I really feel for you. It should have been made clear in advance, you've invested time in reading, now you're not supposed to comment? As other posters have noted, if you do place a negative review, it'll probably get voted down by 'friends' of the author. Frankly, even if I see all 5 star reviews, I still download a sample before purchase, and from your description that should be enough to put potential buyers off.
It's best to be honest but fair when reviewing a book. After all, it's merely your opinion/perception of the author's writing ability and creativity. Reviewing a book is similar to reviewing a movie, one person may like it but the next person may not. Like Gareth, I also believe that the PR company is not helping the author, basically, they are preventing honest opinions to be made by making such a request. I believe that constructive criticism, rather than negative comments, may assist the author in improving his/her writing skills. I would reply to the PR company and express your dilemma. Good Luck.
I try not to post reviews on third party websites if they are less than three stars. While I do enjoy reading and my blogging HOBBY, I also see it as helping to bring attention to books I like (which is why I rarely give out less than three stars because I only read books I think I'm going to like, as many of you do).
That being said, if I had a publisher send me a request like that I would certainly pull out unless I was really interested in reading that specific book.