This is the first of several posts on topics raised at the Charmouth Literary Festival last Saturday about issues that come up for writers – or issues that I noticed on the day.
Today I’m thinking about book reviews. One of the audience, himself a writer, shared that he had problems with other friends who are also writers. The first problem was that they seemed to expect him to buy their book, and the second was that they then put pressure on him to post a review on Amazon. All of this seems to me distinctly unfair and stretching a friendship too far. That set me thinking about the etiquette of it all. What is acceptable and what is not? I have a few ideas for some guidelines for authors.
- If you really want to know what your friends think of your book then ask them before it is published, as part of your editorial process. If you are going to do that then ask them as a favour to you (or offer to do the same for them in the future), and provide them with a printed copy, double spaced so it is easy to read. Don’t disagree with them about any feedback they give; just be grateful,
- When your book is published by all means share that with your friends and family, but don’t expect them to buy it and certainly don’t ask them if they have. If they decide to do so then that is an honour.
- If you want anyone to review your book then offer them a free copy – either a physical copy or electronic, whichever they prefer. Reviews are all-important, so approach people who you think might be prepared to review for you. Bear in mind that many book reviewers are booked up (excuse the pun) well ahead of time, so you might have to wait.
- If someone tells you in person or by email that they have enjoyed your book or found it helpful then I think it is perfectly acceptable to ask them if they would mind posting a review on Amazon or elsewhere.
- Don’t put friends on the spot by asking them what they thought of your book unless it is part of the editing process as described above. Rest assured that if they like it they will tell you, and don’t be offended if they don’t.
Those are my thoughts on the matter – but what do you think? Are there other considerations? How should we behave as authors?