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?
Then, perhaps, it might be best to state in your policy that you will post all reviews, positive or negative, on any sites you normally post on, for future reference. That way, were this to happen again, you can point them directly to the clause that states that.
I think it was unfair of the publisher to to bring up this new point after you had already agreed, and read the book. They should have been upfront about that policy. The fact that they weren't says to me that at some point between the time you agreed/received the pdf, and read the book, they probably already had some negative feedback, and were trying to change that. Now I don't know that for certain, obviously, but that's how it comes off to me, and it puts you in a terrible position.
I can understand them wanting to look out for their client, but this seems to me like the wrong way to go about it.
My thought is that you're not being paid for your opinion, therefore it is free for you to give as you please. If the review is negative, so what? Everybody has different tastes, it happens. I may read reviews, but I take them for what they are, other peoples' opinions, and sure, it sometimes nice to know what other people think of any given book, but that doesn't really influence my decision. What someone else find's terrible may turn out to be one of my new favorites, that's just how things work.
Evangeline, I think you're putting too much thought into this.
For you this is a hobby and for the author/publisher this is a way to make a living. They can say that they don't want negative reviews and you can agree or not.
If you do or do not agree to the terms no-one will question your integrity or will it have any long lasting affect.
If the book is crappy I can assure you negative reviews will pop up. Nothing make me more wary then a bunch of 5 star reviews and 1 star reviews with nothing in between.
As for me, I did read this entire thread before posting my thoughts. In case I didn't make myself clear, It's not the fact that they asked to keep the reviews that are posted positive (I have no problem with that, so long as they don't expect me to do the same on my own site, were it particularly stated that All reviews were are the honest opinion of the blogger, and are not sugar-coated, or whatever -- which reminds me, been meaning to update the review policy). My issue is that they requested her to do so AFTER she accepted and read the book. It seemed shady to me that they only brought it up after she had formulated her opinions of the book, and because her opinions aren't that great, now she's placed in an awkward position.
Sure, it's possible that they could have just forgot to mention that detail before hand and wanted to throw it in. Or, they even could have thought they mentioned it prior to that point and were just reiterating. But, unfortunately (to me at least) that is not how it comes off.
I wasn't accusing them of being shady, I said they were coming off as shady (seemed, as opposed to were/are/is -- there is a difference). Nor was I involving "every author or promotion" in the matter and, no offence, but I think that's part of the issue here, too. This is being made way bigger than it needs to be. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for large scale debates, but the question at hand was about one instance with one publicist, and I don't see how having issues with how this one publicist handled the affair turns into "condemning the actions of authors, PR firms and publicists in acquiring reviews"?
THIS publicist requested that Evangeline write a positive review, or not post her's to Amazon or Goodreads. My point (in both my previous posts) was that this wasn't really an issue EXCEPT for the fact that the first mention of this "testing parameter" (as you put it a few posts down) wasn't until AFTER Evangeline had already accepted and read the book. It was not a part of the previous "mutual agreement". As such, it is shady behavior to include it afterwards. True, it could all be a misunderstanding, easily cleared up with a simple question, but that doesn't prevent the proverbial red flag from being raised.
When someone or something comes off as shady, I always feel it's best to err on the side of caution. Unfortunately, yes, that means mean I tend to focus on the potential negative aspects of a situation (and everything in life is situation based -- which is why I also have issues when something said against one thing gets turned into something against all things like that thing). I don't think it's wrong for me to take that position, as it covers my rear. Better safe than sorry, as cliché as that may be.
I actually think it's not so much a case of the opinion of the reviewer trumping everything as it is a case of the opinion of the reader trumping everything. Because that's what most reviewers are - readers. They might also be writers, or editors, or publicists, or air traffic controllers, but first and foremost, they're readers. IMO, publication is entirely about audience - whether you're a best-selling author with Random House or a fanfiction writer based on a private mailing list. Reviews are by readers, for readers - and it is the reader who suffers when reviewers, marketplaces or publishers/authors/publicists move beyond that tradition.
As a writer, I understand that not everyone will enjoy my work. As a reader, I understand that I will not enjoy everyone's work. Honest reviews are a tool I can use to determine which books I will enjoy - or, as a writer, how better to target my audience. On the other hand, manipulating reviews to promote (or tear down) an author's work helps no one. I think the assumption that readers are stupid enough to be fooled by such tactics is an extremely dangerous one.
(I'm not at all saying that you're making that assumption, BTW. I think it's one that's becoming more common, however.)
Shawn, I have to disagree with you on the first point.
It is wrong if a reviewer is asked to keep a review positive. After all, what is the point of a review then? If a review is all about being positive and gushy about a book, the author might as well not ask for a review. If an author wants a positive review, he/she should resort to a paid service then. I mean, as a book blogger, I'm taking the time to read the book and write the review. I do this because I love books. I am not paid in any way. A review is my opinion of the book. If you don't want a negative review, then why ask me to review your book?
I know it is difficult for authors (especially self-pubbed/indie pubbed ones) as the competition is high. Everyone wants to sell their books. I know that a negative review of a book in Amazon will not help the author sell her books. Nevertheless, if a negative review is the truth, then so be it. If an author cannot receive criticism, what is the point of being an author then? Even the bestselling authors receive criticism! If an author cannot be told why a reader thinks her book is horrible, I think that equates an unteachable child who cannot be told right from wrong and vice versa.
Sorry if I sound harsher than intended here. But I'm honestly annoyed and pissed off with the attitude of the publicist in concern. I know that not all publicists/authors I like that. I've worked with many, and this is the first time I've encountered such a publicist. This will probably be a one-off thing (I hope). Please don't think I'm anti-publicist/author. The publicists and authors I've worked with are nice people (friendly, helpful, etc.).
Shawn, I've said it a couple of times here, but I'm saying it again. It wasn't an ARC. It wasn't an eBook. It wasn't a print book. It was just a PDF. The author did not want to spend the money to mail the print book and the book isn't out in eBook format yet, so she provided a PDF. Since a PDF is not for sale (as far as I know), it doesn't cost anything.
I've also said it again and again here that I wasn't told not to post the negative review in Amazon/Goodreads until after I received the PDF and finished reading it. Since this is the case, it is wrong to say that there was a mutual agreement involved. The only agreement was that I would review the book and post the review on a certain date. An author/PR firm have rights in mutual agreements. I agree with that. But there wasn't any such agreement about this when I accepted the PDF! I think it is extremely "shady" (to quote Kira here) for the publicist to only let me know I'm not supposed to post the review in Amazon/Goodreads after I've received and read the PDF. This puts me in a tight spot as I have agreed to review the book and post it on a certain date. It is like I have no choice but to either back out of the tour, or not post my review in Amazon/Goodreads. Don't get me wrong, I am all for mutual agreements, but the rules and t/c of the tour should be made clear to all reviewers before they decide to accept the book or not! This doesn't only apply in book reviewing. This also applies in all other legal contracts. The rules/t/c are set out and both parties agree to them before the deal is signed.
If this were me, I would review the book and give it 4 stars, then I would be positive about the book to start out, listing whatever good points it might have, and then I would add my true feelings, not in a bad way but maybe suggest where the author went wrong and how to improve it. In a away that would make it a positive review yet a truthful one. You could also state why you gave it 4 stars, like maybe, I give 4 stars for the author's determination, grit, and drive in putting out the best possible book that he/she knew how.
I know all about negative reviews on Amazon. My short story was going great guns until someone decided to tell all. But I think that any review is a good review as it forwards what the readers think. You can get just as much publicity out of a bad review as a good one because readers normally want to see for themselves how bad it is or how good it is. Good luck with your review. If you've alread done it, please reply here and tell us how it turned out.
I would never post a positive review if you didn't enjoy the book. Not even if they paid me. Because isn't that what reviews are for? Positive and negative comments?
I really don't see the problem. You were asked to review a book. Post your review. Period. It's not a reviewer's job to act as a shill for the publicist or author. As long as the review is a proper, honest review, then let the chips fall where they may.
It's the PR agent's job to promote the book; it's the reviewer's job to give a fair and honest critique.
Truth to be told, I never expected the thread to drag on until now. :) Still, I want to put this matter at rest.
I have been really annoyed at the publicist in concern, but I know that this is a one-off thing. Like I've said many times here, I've worked with various publicists/authors and have never had such a problem. I know that most authors and publicists aren't like that, judging from out pleasant interactions. I don't want publicists and authors to be lumped into the negative category just because of one bad apple.
I've enjoyed reading some very interesting opinions about this issue in this discussion thread. It's interesting knowing what authors, book bloggers and a publicist think about this issue. I'm beginning to have a clear picture on the various stands book bloggers make in their review policy when it deals with review integrity. I'm also beginning to have a clear picture on the various takes the authors have and what the publicist think about this.
So why am I posting this?
Firstly, I don't want anyone to think I'm anti-author or anti-publicist. There are good authors and publicists out there.
Secondly, I don't want this issue to be blown out of proportion. I'm no longer involved with this publicity company, and I don't want to be involved with this company in the future.
Thirdly, I just want to bury this issue. I've not given much thought to it the past few days and it just isn't worth my time thinking and dwelling on it.
That's all I have to say.... just gotta get it off my chest. :)