Read for Review – And Honesty?

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Recently, I’ve heard that certain reviews being posted on Amazon are being pulled. Curious as to why, I looked around a bit and found a whole discussion on it there in the Amazon forums. It detailed that it seemed as though certain Amazon reviews were being pulled because they were coming from readers who received ARC and RAR copies (which means Advanced Reader Copy and Read and Review copy). In other words, people who received free books in exchange for reviews. Namely, HONEST reviews. Like, you get the book and you leave a review, regardless of your opinion of the book, the publisher (or author or whoever gave you the book) wants the review. The real one.

At least, that’s the gist of it.

Here, apparently, is Amazon’s concern: books in exchange for reviews is the equivalent of paying for a review. Which, okay, I think that’s sort of a stretch, but fine. You’re giving someone an incentive for leaving a review. That incentive is, theoretically, something you (the reader/reviewer) wants, right? And that translates to some form of payment, right? That’s, like, giving money for a review!

(Did you know there are paid reviewers out there? Literally, it is their job to read a book, watch a movie, try out a restaurant – all of it gratis – and then proceed to post a review and get paid for it. No joke.)

Now, I understand where Amazon’s concern might lie.

Oh, what if being paid (in money, books, or free pizza…) might sway the opinion of the reviewer? And, oh, what if this means there will be NOTHING BUT FIVE STAR REVIEWS FOR TERRIBLE BOOKS?

Oh, wait, that already happens… Seriously, it makes me angry, and I’ll just tell you, those reviews weren’t the result of free copies. Nope. Just uninvolved, easily amused readers who will gobble up any cotton-brain-candy out there… Okay, and a *little* bit of a difference of opinion via genre and whatever else, but that’s like 2% of a star discrepancy.

But my mini-rant aside, I understand that you might be worried that these “paid” reviewers aren’t being fully honest. I mean, I like getting free books, don’t I? Why, of course I do! I love to read and I’m going to write a review anyway… Why not get a free book out of the deal? And I’ll be honest, I was really concerned when I first started asking for ARCs and RARs. I thought, “If I leave a bad review… will no one give me a free book again?”

But here’s the thing. I still get free books and I tend to leave poor reviews more often than not. Why? Because I’m not going to let a free book sway my opinion. And that’s for three reasons.

One.

I have some friggin’ integrity, thank you very much. My reputation is valuable to me, but more importantly, my own opinion of myself is important. I wouldn’t feel right giving a high review to someone that didn’t deserve it because it invalidates and cheapens all the high reviews I gave for people that honestly deserved them! And I’m just not okay with that. Better to get an angry author, publisher, or even fan, than to feel as though I’m offering a fake smile to the world while simultaneously spitting on those that deserve true, honest recognition.

Two.

Why would I want to encourage more bad boosk?!?! Seriously, leaving a good review for a bad book is just poor planning. Because it means the author is going to write another book, just like the first, not bothering to change anything because all the reviews said IT WAS SO AWESOMESAUCE! So now we have a Craptastic Book Two! And when we have to review that book the same way we reviewed the first one, now we have a whole Craptastic, The Series!

Why would I want to encourage more bad writing? From both a writer’s and a reader’s standpoint, this seems counterproductive to my end goal: To find more books to fall in love with.

Three.

Why would I want another bad book from an author I didn’t enjoy? Why would I want another free book if I just feel as though every free book I read I must lie about in order to get another free book? That I will ultimately hate?

So ultimately I’m left with the feeling that leaving anything other than an honest review is just… not right.

And I have to believe that I’m not the only person who feels this way. Don’t readers and reviewers take pride in themselves? Yes, they must. I believe that they must! And they want quality, too, right? Yes, of course they do. They have to!

I will make one more point: I get not wanting to hurt someone’s feelers about it. Authors are sensitive. Trust me, I totally know. My least favorite thing is having someone come in, read what I’ve written, then hand it back to me and tell me how I’ve just “gotten it all wrong”. Pfft. Like they could do it better. But at the same time, if I let myself step back for a minute and really look at the criticism constructively, sometimes the negative reviews teach us the most. And that means I can grow as an author.

And, yes, it still hurts.

I guess my point is not telling it like it is just to spare someone’s feelings isn’t doing anyone any good. I’m not saying you have to be a jerk or be mean or just rip their life’s work to shreds, but you should be honest and you should make an effort to lay out why you didn’t enjoy something. It could go so far as to make them better authors in the end, so that maybe you actually will enjoy the next book.

Really, just don’t leave a five and four star review for something that you hated. That’s just silly and doesn’t help you, the author, or other readers.

Which brings me back around to Amazon removing reviews.

The idea that saying “I got an ARC” means “I’m lying through my teeth about the quality of this book!” is utterly stupid. Yes, there will be some less than honest people out there, but they are not the majority. Instead, I think we should give the reviewer the benefit of the doubt and say that they are honest. Even if we don’t agree with their opinion – or even if they’ve left a good review for a bad book. Because sometimes, people just do that. I think that has to do with a little on the personal taste side and a lot of “I wasn’t really paying attention to this while I was reading” side.

It happens. That’s fine.

I just think that Amazon is being fairly ridiculous about this whole concept of ARCs and RARs. These are the things that can help break-out authors (and especially self-publishers) get their works out there. People might never even look at their books, not because they’re bad, but because they don’t get the same kind of publicity. And because Amazon gives more advertising, featuring, etc. for books with more reviews and more purchases – which go hand in hand. Which means that the more books that have been reviewed, the more they’ll be purchased, the more featuring they’ll get, the more reviews they’ll get…

But how do you break into that cycle if NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT YOUR BOOK? Yes, you have to advertise, but part of that is getting your book into the hands of people that might otherwise not read it – usually because they don’t have the money for it.

So I say that Amazon is being silly and the ARCs and RARs should continue.

What’s your opinion on this crazy Amazon policy? Do you agree with me that reviewers are mostly honest?

sincerely3

E.C. Orr

P.S. – The main reason I decided to do a post on this (and why it mostly focused on the honesty of ARC/RAR reviews) is that in the forum, there was a poster who didn’t trust “free book” reviews. Why? Because she felt they were all basically liars who were giving higher ratings because they were essentially “paid” for their services. And I was offended. Especially since she then proceeded to say that she automatically went to 3 star reviews – which mine are usually that or below – because she felt they were more “honest”. So, what, my review doesn’t count EVEN THOUGH I RATE LOWER THAN MOST DESPITE FREE COPIES, just because I put in the effort to get a free book? Wow, that makes that person a real jerk, a little judgy, and seriously misinformed.

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Free eBooks

UPDATED 9/26/2016

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I’m being lazy right now (well, not really; I’m working right now, so no time for long blog posts!), so I thought I’d do a quick one about free books. Because who doesn’t like free books?

First, places to look for free ebooks (I’m sure there are others, so feel free to list them in the comments below!):

  • Amazon (obviously not all are free, but you can find lots free ones if you look around and there is even a site/app that will look for the free ones for you. If I can find it again, I’ll post it.)
  • Instafreebie (I receive emails for free books from here, so you will have to give them your email and I do get quite a few from them, but it is always for ebook suggestions and they’re all free books.)
  • Google Play Books (like Amazon, you can find good deals, cheap ebooks, or free books. You just have to look around.)
  • ReadForReview (not guaranteed to give you free books, but you can ask for them and you have 2 weeks to post your reviews on Amazon. You do have to give them your email. You can earn points towards an Amazon gift card – but these are HONEST reviews. You do not have to leave a positive review to earn points towards the gift card.)
  • Freebooksy (I signed up via email, however, you don’t need to. You can just peruse their website, too. It lists ebooks that are either free or have gone on sale for free for a limited time. They’re *mostly* through Amazon for Kindle, however, a few are for other platforms also like Nook, Kobo, and Apple.)

Next, a quick list of books I got for free on Amazon (and a quick note as to whether you should get them, too):

  1. A Reluctant Assassin by JC Morrows (Haven’t read it yet. Fantasy. Reviews suggeest it is heavy in romance despite the cover and the summary, but no one has straight up put down the writing. Reviewers have mentioned some lack of character development and that this is a shorter story. Had one reviewer say the formatting was weird, but I haven’t noticed it.)
  2. True Calling by Siobhan Davis (Haven’t read. Dystopian. Several bad reviews claiming poor writing/too much teenage drama. One suggested it was a lame version of the Hunger Games. That being said, the reviews are primarily high and it seems like those who liked Matched would enjoy this one.)
  3. Inborn by Amy Saunders (Haven’t read. About an alien girl hiding on earth with the ability to create portals. Only 9 reviews, most high. Suggest it is slightly confusing, but interesting. Ends on a cliffhanger. Writing is suggested as being pretty good, but with a few errors.)
  4. Shades of Valhalla by Ellis Logan (Haven’t read. Fantasy about Fae and Celtic and Norse mythology. I will definitely be checking this one out. There are only 15 reviews, but the lowest is 3 stars and that’s a mistake with the site. Listed as compelling and fast paced. I hope it lives up to these reviews.)
  5. Entangled by Nikki Jefford (Haven’t read, paranormal romance. Has quite a few reviews, mostly high. The few low ones suggest that they didn’t like the “teen antics” or the language of the novel/how it was written. Suggest that this is less about paranormal stuff and more about teen romance.)
  6. The Breeders by Katie French (Haven’t read yet. Dystopian, focusing on population problems and the need for women to reproduce as there are so few of them. Reviews are high, but several of the lower reviews suggest that the story lacks depth and “consequences” despite the potential darkness for a story like this. I’m on the fence about this one, because it sounds like it could be really good – or really bad.)
  7. Nightfall by E.L. Middleton (I haven’t read it, but wouldn’t recommend it based on reviews mainly because God plays a very strong role and I don’t necessarily care for that in my novels. If this doesn’t bother you, you might like it anyway. It’s a zombie novel.)
  8. All the Dead Arising by Jamie Campbell (This is a novella. Haven’t read it yet. YA Horror. There aren’t any reviews, so it’s difficult to say one way or the other. All the adults are wiped out, the children are left to fend for themselves. Interesting premise, so I’ll check it out. Let me know if anyone else has read this yet.)
  9. Ghost Park by Heather Beck (Novella, horror, haven’t read. Two high reviews saying that it’s really well written and has all kinds of creepy twists and turns. There is one single star review and I’m inclined to trust it more. It claims the book is short and not in the least scary. The reason I think this may be the most indicative review is because the book is only 23 pages. It might still be scary, but it’s doubtful.)
  10. Chosen: Ghost Academy by K. E. O’Connor (Horror, haven’t read, but interesting premise. Ghosts who don’t move on have to struggle through their deaths and deal with leftover problems. It sounds really interesting and the 8 reviews are high to middling – nothing below 3 stars. Will definitely check out.)

I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but this post turned into a not so quick post… Anyway, hope you guys enjoy some of these and let me know if any of these are no longer free so that I can make a note of that! I’ve found a lot more than ten, but the post got super long, so I think I’ll just do posts like these every so often to go over the free ones I’ve found.

If any of the links are incorrect or broken, please let me know. Also, if you’ve found free ones yourself, let me know in the comments below!

sincerely3

E.C. Orr