Would you write your own reviews?

Not getting any reviews? Write your own online! Even have a conversation with yourself online, using fake names to build a media buzz and say things like: “One of the most talented authors of today…”

Shocked? Or think it is a good idea? Best-selling authors have actually done both of those things, as reported in the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday. Novelist RJ Ellory was revealed to have fabricated glowing reviews of his own books. And thriller writer Stephen Leather started his online conversation with himself.

The article went on to quote author Ceri Radford: “It’s hard to tell where the line lies … Sure pretending to be someone you’re not in order to describe your own work as a searing work of literary genius is wrong … but is it dodgy to ask one friend? Or five? Or 10? What about asking your Twitter followers to post reviews? …”

For me, this was a little close to home. Where do you draw the line? I had thought nothing of asking audience members at the show in Camden to tweet about Martini Bond, which some of them did. Similarly, a couple of journalists I know wrote reviews of the play when two reviewers who had booked press tickets failed to turn up.

Friends can write what they like, as one of my friends who had written reviews for another author friend explained. She’d had to read the book and genuinely wrote what she thought about it. That’s what all my Tweeters and reviewers did too: express their own views.

And we’re hoping to use social media as part of the multimedia event at Barking. We would like audience members to tweet about the show afterwards. And for the interval we hope to have Skype link-ups round the world with people who are live streaming in. This will give us immediate audience reaction.

The important part for me is the engagement with your audience or readers, in a way that has not happened before the explosion in social media. It is offering exciting opportunities for writers and readers alike. But, of course, just don’t actually write it yourself, about yourself.

What would you do? Have you asked friends to write reviews? Would you mind if they were bad? What about offering a free book in return for a review? Is that a grey area for you?

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September 6, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Books, Comedy writing, Fiction, Publishing.

26 Comments

  1. Zen replied:

    I haven’t asked any of my friends to write me reviews, but even if I did, I would ask them to be honest. I have contacted book blogs that request free copies in exchange for honest reviews. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. You’re trying to promote your book, and a review posted on a blog followed by many people would garner some attention. The reviews I’ve received weren’t glowing five stars, but I’m okay with that. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, and less than honest reviews wouldn’t help me develop as a writer anyway.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      The critical feedback is the most important, especially if you can see they have a point (and act on it)! Thanks for posting a comment.

  2. on thehomefrontandbeyond replied:

    There are so many grey areas that it is hard to make a judgment–I understand when people do things that I would not necessarily do for reasons that are not particularly bad – after all, we all have to have food and shelter–and though some take that for granted, I most certainly do not

  3. Carl D'Agostino replied:

    There are review writers that will manufacture a review for a nominal fee and post on their review blog. This gives professionalism to the review. One’s local newspaper would certainly review an author from the community and these can be added to a genuine portfolio of reviews. Often college professors will create a review for free because it gives them a publishing credit. All of these are from “credentialed” people. Readings at the local library are one of many entries in a local paper’s events calender and reviews may be harvested from attendees. All of these suggestions would be untainted by personal influence or clandestine personal manufacture.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      All great suggestions. The Guardian article did touch on payment for reviews – and that fell into a grey area too. I like the idea of attendees’ feedback – that’s like our audience feedback. Immediate reaction. Great stuff.

  4. Pauline Guerin replied:

    I’m still waiting to hear if my review of Martini Bond has been accepted. Frankly, I’m thinking of publishing it anyway I rather liked my revised review. mmmmm

  5. journeyofjordannaeast replied:

    I would ask friends and family to be honest. I wouldn’t mind providing a free copy of the book to bloggers for reviews. I think that’s the standard arrangement nowadays anyway.

    As for faking reviews, NEVER. There’s no better feeling then someone reading part of my WIP and telling me that it’s awesome. I couldn’t fake that. I couldn’t rob myself of that feeling. Conversely, if someone didn’t enjoy it I would want to know why. I would want to learn from it. That’s how you grow as a writer.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      I agree – I couldn’t write my own reviews. The shame! The unethical behaviour! Also, interesting about the critical feedback. I asked around for critical feedback – it can be difficult for friends to give this…

      • journeyofjordannaeast replied:

        Yeah critical feedback from friends is weird. It takes a certain kind of friend to be honest and constructive. Like how there are certain people you take shopping with you because you know they’ll tell you if your bum looks big? Same situation.

  6. Carrie Rubin replied:

    I think it’s okay to offer a free book for a genuine review–after all, that’s what publishers do for their new releases. It gets a little trickier when it’s close friends and family. But writing one’s own review? Yikes. I’d be too worried someone would trace that IP address back to my own laptop. Talk about egg on one’s face.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Yes, I think writing your own reviews is a step too far – but it has got Ellory two or three pages of national newspaper coverage and then there’s all the web coverage too….

  7. Gina replied:

    The publishing industry isn’t fair to start with, from getting an agent, to getting your manuscript to the top of the pile, read, published and reviewed. The quotes from other authors on book jackets will often to be from authors who share the same publisher or agent. Similarly, reviews in newspapers. There’s a hidden agenda. I’ll scratch your back if scratch mine. Also, if you look at some reviews on Amazon you can spot the friends – the 5 star glowing reviews from people who have never reviewed anything other than that one book. It’s all murky. The trick, as with everything, is to lie well and not to get caught. Ultimately, word of mouth still really counts. That’s in my unpublished book!

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Word of mouth – that’s it. I think social media is just an extension of the word of mouth – and is that so bad? Perhaps it worries the media organisations because suddenly it has democratised (is that a word?) the world of reviews. Why is an independent review worth more than good old-fashioned (but updated in social media) word of mouth?

      • Gina replied:

        I agree that in some ways it’s more democratic. Taking the recommendations of people you know and trust on websites/blogs etc is fine. I tend to look at the 3 – 4 star amazon reviews for eg, and from certain reviewers. Asking friends to support you is one thing but writing your own glowing reviews isn’t democratic but dishonest. And a bit pathetic. It’s just not cricket.

  8. jmmcdowell replied:

    I might be harder on myself in a self-review than most critics…. 😉

    I don’t think it’s wrong to ask people to review—as long as we don’t cajole them into writing a good one or pressure them if they don’t feel they could do one.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Yes, I agree. Wonder how you would feel if a friend wrote a bad one though! Actually, I think any publicity is good. The author who wrote his own reviews has had a lot of publicity – and I expect he’ll sell more books!

  9. robincoyle replied:

    A published author asked on her blog if anyone wanted to swap book reviews. I said I would HONESTLY review in book, but because I am not published, I simply asked her to give me feedback on my WIP. You know, ask the stranger what they think of your book, not your mom.

    I read her book. Did the honest review. Told her I did it. And what have I heard back from her in terms of feedback on my book? Na da. I won’t do that again.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      That’s terrible. I hope it hasn’t put you off helping out your fellow bloggers tho.

  10. kateshrewsday replied:

    Great post. Reviews seem to be the way to get a book to go viral: social media presents marketing opportunities unheard of a couple of decades ago. A self promoting tweet is simple to write: but self promotion can become a habit which, if unchecked, can cross the line.

    But there is also a gullible public out there: happy to read and accept without checking. We all need to be more rigorous, more questioning of the mesmerising stream of information which is increasingly dominating our lives. Whether it can be officially regulated is doubtful. So readers must self-sift.

  11. Marianne replied:

    People ask me all the time to write reviews for their books, lectures etc. I don’t mind doing it, if I’ve the time and if I believe it’s a good product. I’m not a critic, it’s not my job and I find it offensive when people I barely know expect me to write a good review for them, unpaid of course. Just the other day when I said no, I was told I am a idiot… in public… They actually tried to shame me into do it, which made me laugh, not the reaction they expected, :).

    I love the social media, and I Iove recommending blogs, plays, books, stores etc. I do it all the time, but it has to be on my own terms. Too many people/ companies misuse the social media, and put pressure on people to do unpaid pr job for them. It’s got me thinking, how valuable is a review today when so many write their own, or ask their family/best friend to write one for them… I’m not judging, some of my friends do it, I’m just wondering… Great question! 🙂

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      I love the point you raise about the value of the reviews. Perhaps they have been devalued – certainly if authors write them about themsevles! If it’s friends etc, though, isn’t that the same as word of mouth? Or is there a difference? Thanks for stopping by.

      • Marianne replied:

        I agree with you that it is the same as word of mouth. What I meant to write but forgot to do, is that many people and companies now a days gives you a statement and then tell you to sign it. I don’t think that is a positive development, 🙂

      • WomanBitesDog replied:

        Yuck! I don’t like statements. That’s soul destroying!

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